The NHS Confederation has called for a series of changes to the way urgent care is organised in the UK, in order to help emergency medical staff to serve the needs of patients more effectively.
Responding to Sir Bruce Keogh's review of urgent and emergency care, the organisation has issued a report entitled Ripping Off the Sticking Plaster, which calls for an end to short-termist thinking when it comes to the planning of A&E services.
At present, many patients are over-reliant on visiting A&E departments to address their medical needs, given that they could receive more timely and appropriate care by visiting GPs, specialist care professionals or community service providers.
As such, the NHS Confederation has recommended that more be done to bring primary care, acute, ambulance, mental health, social care and community services together in order to offer a more unified, holistic approach to care provision.
This would mean moving towards a clear single point of access for urgent and emergency care, with a consistent triage to ensure people with physical and mental health needs are served by the part of the system that best meets their needs.
Additionally, providing training for staff was highlighted as a crucial priority, as this will empower them to decide whether a patient should be treated in an emergency department or elsewhere. The report recommended that community-based ambulance services also be developed further, through enhancing paramedic practitioner roles.
Finally, the idea of developing emergency care networks was welcomed, with the report adding that NHS England should allow local areas the freedom to establish systems suitable for their population needs.
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "Looking at urgent and emergency care in isolation, or just as a hospital problem, without an appreciation or understanding of what is going on across the rest of the NHS and social care will not solve the long-term issues.
"This will require primary care, acute, ambulance, mental health, social care and community services to work together in networks."
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