Rishi Sunak must focus on GPs to get ambulances back on the road

The PM must focus on the nexus between the health services if he is to succeed in resolving the ambulance crisis, writes Dr Owen Rhys-Hughes



<p> Rishi Sunak has promised to deal with the ambulance crisis – but doubts remain (Image: Mark Hall/National World) </ p>src=”https://www.nationalworld.com/jpim-static/image/2022/11/23/17/NWLD-composite-sunak-and-ambulance-MH.jpg?width=640&quality=65&smart&enable=upscale”  data-srcset=”https://www.nationalworld.com/jpim-static/image/2022/11/23/17/NWLD-composite-sunak-and-ambulance-MH.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=320 320w, https: //www.nationalworld.com/jpim-static/image/2022/11/23/17/NWLD-composite-sunak-and-ambulance-MH.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=640 640w, https://www.nationalworld .com/jpim-static/image/2022/11/23/17/NWLD-composite-sunak-and-ambulance-MH.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=990 990w” data-hero=”” fetchpriority=”high”/ ></figure><figcaption class=

Rishi Sunak has promised to deal with the ambulance crisis – but doubts remain (Image: Mark Hall/National World)

Time and time again as an NHS surgeon I have found the following to be true about our health service: no individual part can work in isolation. So, despite their encouraging commitment to innovation, Rishi Sunak’s plans to address the delay in ambulances failed to fill me with hope. By missing the vital link between services and the need for a holistic approach to remedy them, the plans fall fatally short of a real solution. What we really need to get ambulances back on the road is to focus, instead, on GPs.

While a family doctor treating patients at their local clinic may seem completely detached from blue lights and sirens; In fact, they couldn’t be more relatable. The challenges and pressures faced by GPs have a direct impact on our overwhelmed emergency services. To solve one, we must inevitably treat the other.

This is only exacerbated by the outdated and outdated tools and systems at their disposal – making admin slow and time consuming, and greatly restricting the time GPs have to spend with their patients. As a result, patients struggle to book appointments and often face long waiting times to be seen. Increasingly, many are reaching crisis point – which means the Ambulance Service and A&E teams are supporting more and more patients who are very ill because they don’t have access to early intervention.

So in order to effectively ease the demand for emergency services and free up ambulances for those who need them most, releasing GP capacity is key. This starts by eliminating the time intensive doctors that dominate doctors time. To achieve this, the Prime Minister’s plans to increase innovation must not lose sight of primary care. GPs need more effective digital tools, which enable them to communicate more easily with colleagues in other services, and streamline the process of referring patients for treatment.

There is a need for new systems that enable data and information to be shared directly between the hundreds of different systems currently in use across the NHS. This will reduce the time that GPs and practice staff must spend manually re-entering data when referring patients or recording treatment outcomes. Instead, they will have more time to spend with patients, which increases the number of appointments available and prevents the need for these patients to turn to the emergency medical department.

Focusing innovation on primary care can also help support greater collaboration between NHS services. We can hand GPs the tools to communicate more easily with senior colleagues in their local hospitals. By enabling them to share knowledge and advice in real time, we can help them work together to improve triage and reduce the number of patients who are unnecessarily sent to hospital.

Rishi Sunak’s call for innovation in the fight to tackle ambulance delays is a step in the right direction. But its goal must be more inclusive, and build real connectivity between services, in order to be successful. We must not neglect primary care in our quest to get ambulances back on the road. GPs must be prioritized if we are to meaningfully reduce demand for emergency services and reduce life-threatening wait times for care.

Dr. Owen Rhys-Hughes is the founder and CEO of the company Synapsis