PERFORMANCE: An independent report into emergency provision in Berkshire has identified a “vacuum” between GP services and care for life threatening situations.

Verve, “a company that specialises in public engagement”, has undertaken a study of why east Berkshire residents – those from Slough in particular - attend accident and emergency departments.

The main findings were:

  • Getting urgent and unplanned care right is currently a major challenge for the NHS in east Berkshire – it is an important priority for clinicians and commissioners alike, and an area of concern for patients;
  • There is a vacuum between straightforward everyday care (GP) and life threatening emergencies (999), and for many people A&E fills this gap;
  • Most people (73%) who have been to A&E in the last 12 months made no attempt to contact their GP first – although those who do contact their GP overwhelmingly succeed in getting advice;
  • Success in reducing inappropriate use of A&E is likely to require a combination of individual initiatives, including better patient education, clearer communication, service improvements and coordination across the traditional fault-lines between primary/acute care and NHS and other services with responsibility for care;
  • GP practices and (when considering it) patients themselves have a high level of insight into their motivations and the tactics likely to be effective in patients making the “right” choices, and the launch of the new 111 service provides a window of opportunity to recast thinking – for patients and professionals alike.

The report’s findings will inform urgent and unplanned care commissioning plans, board papers said.