One in five people who arrive at Northampton General Hospital’s A&E do so because they cannot see a GP, an independent survey suggests.
During a two week period, Healthwatch Northamptonshire asked 173 people in the A&E waiting area at NGH, at different times of the day and evening.
A total of 20 per cent of the people surveyed attended A&E at NGH because they were unable to see a GP.
Comments from patients included “have to wait a month for a GP appointment”, “always come here – can’t get a GP appointment”, “not prepared to wait for an appointment tomorrow as possibly not able to see GP” and “A&E is the best place to come at weekends.”
Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s chief executive Rosie Newbigging said: “This report highlights some of the problems people in Northamptonshire face when trying to access urgent care and it looks like the system needs to work more effectively together to manage the pressures.
“Pressure on NGH’s A&E department is intense and so alternatives, where appropriate depending on the condition, need to be fully available.”
The watchdog used the report to call for alternatives to A&E to work more effectively.
And it announced it was conducting a survey of people using GP services in the autumn to find out more about the issues raised.
A Healthwatch Northamptonshire spokesman said: “The report indicates that much more work needs to be done to ensure that health services are working together to make sure people have good access to alternatives to A&E, if their condition is not an emergency, and that the public know how to access those alternatives.
“The survey shows that a majority of people are trying to use alternatives to A&E, but that access to alternatives is difficult.”
In total, two thirds of the people surveyed had tried to get advice and help from another part of the health service before coming to A&E, including their GP practice, the out of hours GP service and the 24/7 111 service.
Half of the people surveyed had been directed to A&E by a GP practice, the 111 service, or the out-of-hours doctors service.
Meanwhile, only two people mentioned trying to access a pharmacist which, Healthwatch said, indicated that more work needs to be done to encourage people to think “pharmacy first”.