THOUSANDS of patients attending Basingstoke hospital’s emergency department have been treated by GPs in the first few months since a new system was introduced.

As reported in The Gazette, GPs began working side-by-side with casualty doctors in November to try and ease the pressure on the stretched emergency department (ED).

Prior to the move, bosses at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT), which runs Basingstoke, Winchester and Andover hospitals, had to apologise to patients after it was revealed it was the third worst trust in the country for long waiting times.

Now, the new system is being hailed as a success, and the trust is now hitting the Government target that 95 per cent of patients should spend fewer than four hours in the emergency department.

All patients are assessed by emergency nurse practitioners who either treat the patient or refer them to either the resident GP or emergency department staff.

Previously, after assessment, patients who were less urgent often had to wait to see emergency staff while patients with more serious conditions were treated.

Between the launch of the new system in November and the end of January, 11,146 patients attended ED at Basingstoke hospital.

Sixteen per cent of these patients – 1,783 – were seen by GPs, with 42 per cent seen by emergency doctors and 42 per cent by emergency nurse practitioners.

The system was introduced by North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group and the GPs, provided by North Hampshire Urgent Care, all work in local practices. The department itself has been remodelled, with patients seeing GPs in new consulting rooms accessible from the waiting rooms.

Dr Howard Simpson, HHFT clinical director for unscheduled care, said: “We are all extremely pleased with the way the new system at Basingstoke is working and particularly that this contributed to a significant reduction in the amount of time people spent in the emergency department during what are traditionally the more difficult winter months.”

However, there are warnings that patients should not take advantage of the system and use the GPs or emergency doctor instead of making an appointment with their own doctor.

Dr Angus Carnegy, a GP from Gillies Health Centre, in Basing-stoke, has been working in the department and said he has seen a number of “inappropriate” patients there with conditions including sore throats, urine infections, abdominal pain and anxiety.

He said: “Although there are GPs in the emergency department, please remember that we are not a substitute for your own GP who knows you and your history.”