DOCTORS will be introduced in the Emergency Department at Basingstoke hospital in a bid to alleviate massive pressure on the system.

North Hampshire Calleva Commissioning Group (CCG) – the GP-led organisation that holds the purse-strings – is hoping to have the service up and running by October.

The scheme is now out to tender and the contract should be awarded next month, when any costs should be disclosed.

Under the scheme, when patients attend the Emergency Department, nurses will conduct assessments as normal but, depending on the severity of their condition and who is best placed to deal with them, patients will be sent either to GPs at the Emergency Department, or to emergency doctors and nurses.

As previously reported in The Gazette, the Emergency Department in Basing-stoke hospital is facing a number of pressures, and the number of admissions has risen sharply in recent months.

The closure of the former drop-in centre, the introduction of the 111 NHS helpline number and an increasingly elderly population are all said to be factors in the 20 per cent rise in admissions over the last year.

The CCG is hoping that the new system will free up emergency doctors, mean patients are seen faster, and cut waiting times.

Dr Sam Hullah, CCG chief clinical officer, explained: “It’s a new system which is quite unusual – I don’t know of anything similar currently operating in the South of England.”

He added: “It’s about patients being seen by the right people at the right time. Often patients say they can’t get an appointment with their GP at a time which suits them, which is a problem we are very much aware of.

“Sometimes people will attend the Emergency Department with conditions they should be seeing their GP about.”

Dr Hullah said the service would not mean a lower quality of service for patients, adding: “Some patients will be better off seeing a GP, who will be used to dealing with non-emergency cases. It’s just a different way of working.”

Earlier this year, bosses at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Basingstoke hospital, apologised to patients after it was revealed it was the third worst trust in the country for long A&E waiting times. One patient had to wait for more than 12 hours to be seen.

Dr John Kitching, clinical director of unscheduled care at HHFT, said the introduction of doctors in Basingstoke’s Emergency Department was one of the ways to deal with the pressures, adding: “We are taking steps to make things better.”