A recent North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) Health Scrutiny Committee meeting discussed the availability of ambulances to attend emergencies in Preston.
The meeting at County Hall on 22 October included Peter Mulcahy, Head of Service, Cumbria and Lancashire and Tim Butcher, Assistant Director of Performance, both from NWAS, and discussed a presentation looking at changing demands and current developments within the NWAS.
During the meeting it was suggested it may no longer be possible to send an ambulance to every ’emergency’. The priority was to ensure that the patient received the appropriate level of care, at the right time, and this could be from one of a number of sources including the GP, Urgent Care or the Emergency Department.
A scheme will be trialed in Preston where ambulance crews can contact a dedicated GP by phone for clinical advice to enable crew to take a clinically safe, informed decision.
NWAS will monitor and report back to the committee on the exercise, which was successfully trialed in Greater Manchester.
It was explained that the NWAS, like every public sector organisation, was under pressure to deliver a significant cost improvement programme whilst maintaining performance standards and quality of service.
Separate to this meeting, the ageing population of GPs in the area was acknowledged as a major issue. This could lead to a worrying shortage in the coming years.
It’s a fact that nearly a third of family doctors in the area are over 55, double the national average.
There is a fear that the lack of local GPs patients would end up being treated by agency doctors from outside the area leading to a possible lack of consistency as patients see different doctors at each visit.
The Chief Clinical Officer said steps were being taken to support GP training practices in the area.
Recruitment and retention of GPs was an important part of the developing Primary Care Strategy. It has been shown that young doctors who trained in the area were then more likely to stay here.
However, Dr Steve Griffin, of Berry Lane Medical Centre in Longridge, said there could soon be a ‘crisis’ in the Preston area. He thinks with GPs being criticised by the government, negativity may turn prospective new doctors away. The figures confirm more GPs than ever are now in training. However with the population living longer there may not be enough to go around.
What do you think about the ambulance trial? Do you think the ageing GP population is a problem? Let us know in the comments below