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GPs could work in emergency rooms to cut waiting lists

GPS could soon be working in hospital emergency departments around the country in a bid to cut down waiting lists.

The CEO of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), Dr Tracey Cooper said the presence of a GP within an emergency department is being considered in various parts of the country.

She said that many patients who attend an emergency department could be cared for by GPs or in primary care settings.

"A lot of jurisdictions and parts of the country have already started to look at GPs as part of the emergency department," she said.

"Many patients, for whatever reason, will attend an emergency department for something that could be safely and adequately taken care of and dealt with and treated by a GP.

"That is very consistent with the emergency care programme and it's something that we really need to consider.

"We've had conversations with different parts of the country around GPs. Not just around out-of-hours access, it's also about the presence, potentially of a GP within a department," she recently told a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health.

Dr Liam Twomey said he would be in favour of such an initiative.

The Fine Gael TD said: "Evidence will show that when you have GPs working in accident and emergency departments, they request less investigations - that's less blood tests and less x-rays - than junior doctors."

He said most GPs at the very minimum will have four to five years training before they hit the accident and emergency department.

"There is no reason why it can't happen here," he said, but warned that "one of the biggest problems is that we have a shortage of GPs".

He said there probably would be a cohort of trained GPs in the larger urban areas like Dublin and Cork that might be available to work in emergency departments, but there may not be the availability outside the major urban areas.

Even within Dublin, there can be difficulties in getting full-time GPs in some parts of the city, he pointed out.

"There is a manpower issue in regards to general practice," Dr Twomey said.

But "there is great scope for training people as GPs and having them working in emergency departments".

He said he thought the initiative would be very useful, and would broaden GP training.