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Study shows NHS Direct cuts A&E and GP visits

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NHS Direct helps take pressure off GPs and A&E units, according to independent research.

The findings of the study by IFF Research show that the nurse-led service relieves demand on other services by encouraging patients to treat themselves at home.

Nearly half of the callers advised by NHS Direct to self-care would otherwise have gone to their GP and over a quarter would have gone to A&E.

A high proportion of callers (41%) were advised by NHS Direct to treat themselves at home, while referring 11% to A&E, 28% to a GP, 5% to walk-in centres, 4% to a dentist and 3% to a pharmacist.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of callers would have gone to either their GP or A&E if they had not been able to call NHS Direct.

Of those, 44% stated they would have sought help from their GP and 20% said they would have gone to A&E.

The three main reasons were calling were a new health concern such as an illness or injury (65%), general information (22%) and 12% had an existing condition that was worsening.

NHS Direct chief executive Matt Tee said: ‘These figures quite clearly show that NHS Direct is helping take the pressure off GP surgeries and A&E and what is particularly significant is how many of the callers advised to treat themselves at home would have otherwise gone to doctors’ surgeries and A&E.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I'm sorry to say that I find it difficult to believe these results. Working in out of hours service provision and the number of calls passed from NHS Direct does not tally with the findings. Indeed a lot of the calls we have to re-triage do not require input from a doctor, but the logarithms used by NHS Direct give an automatic disposition to pass the call to the GP service on the same day. Once a call is passed it has to be dealt with within 20 minutes, so the patient receives a call from a clinician during the early hours when they it isn't necessary. The service generates costs rather than reduces them, and makes no difference to attendances.

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  • I work for NHS Direct and can state this report IS accurate. We are monitored rigorously and therefore there are ample stats to say that the majority of our calls are NOT sent to A&E or OOH GP's. My own figures show that almost 60% of my patients are advised home care. I have no control over those then then visit A&E for call their Doctor falsely claiming we sent them. None of the nurses I work with slavishly follow a computer, we all make our own clinical judgements on presenting evidence (and we do probe, believe me).It seems to many people berate the service without truly looking at the figures or visiting and seeing what we are really about.

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