Around one in seven people who attend A&E could be dealt with by a GP, new research suggests.
The College of Emergency Medicine found that 15% of people who attend A&E departments could be treated in the community rather than as an emergency case in hospital.
This equates to 2.1 million patients who come through the doors of emergency departments every year, a College spokesman said.
Many of those who could have been seen by a GP were children with minor illnesses, the researchers found.
The finding has prompted the College to renew its calls for the establishment of GP centres within emergency departments.
At present emergency health services are facing a shortage in specialist doctors, rising numbers of people attending centres and a lack of accessible and effective alternatives to A&E, the spokesman said.
“The fact that only 15% of attendees at emergency departments could be safely redirected to a primary care clinician without the need for emergency department assessment is a statistic that must be heeded by those who wish to reconfigure services,” said Dr Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine.
“Providing a more appropriate resource for the 2.1 million patients represented by this figure would substantially de-congest emergency departments.
“De-congesting emergency departments is key to relieving the unprecedented levels of pressure placed upon them and improving patient care.”