NON-URGENT A&E patients could be sent to GP surgeries in the borough under new plans to help ease congestion in busy departments.
The measures are being proposed by the Healthier Together re-organisation of the region’s £6bn health network and could be taken on by A&E staff at Wigan Infirmary if overcrowding continues to be an issue.
The plans will give A&E workers the ability to book patients into their local practices that night or the following day and will be piloted in Manchester by Easter.
Darren Kilroy, urgent & emergency clinical champion for Healthier Together, said: “Redirecting patients to the most appropriate venue for their healthcare needs is a Central Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group pilot that comes into effect around Easter. Wider plans to reduce the number of patients attending A&E departments are a Greater Manchester priority and aligns with the national agenda to reform health and social care.
“There is currently an epidemic in our hospitals which has seen a sharp rise in the numbers of people accessing their local A&E.
“This puts exceptional pressures on staff already working above and beyond, and stretches limited resources.
“The 12 months since April 2012 saw 44,000 more patients visit their local A&E and as we are an ageing population this figure is set to rise.
“By joining up professionals working across the system – hospitals including Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh, GPs and community-based health and social services – this will ensure a high standard of care provided in the right place at the right time.
“Where necessary, more care will be provided closer to home, especially for the elderly and our most vulnerable patients, people with long-term conditions or with complex needs, who may not need to access their local hospital for treatment.
“Under Healthier Together, we propose to raise standards of care for the local population in every part of Greater Manchester. People who access their local GP, hospital, community-based health and social care services in future can expect the highest quality care.”
The news comes as doctors warned that more than 34 million patients will fail to get an appointment with their GP this year because of government cuts.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) says general practice in England has been “brought to its knees”, with funding slashed by £9.1bn in the last 10 years.
And it warns the situation will get worse because of further cuts at a time when doctors are having to cope with an ageing population.