New trial of GP-delivered urgent care set to launch in WA

Doug Hendrie

5/09/2019 2:06:24 PM

Western Australian patients thinking about going to emergency will next week have a new option – a GP.

Sign pointing to GP or emergency
Can GPs deliver urgent care faster than an ED? WA is about to find out.

More than 130 general practices have signed up to the WA Government’s new care trial, designed to make it easy for patients with urgent – but not life-threatening – issues to find an available GP appointment within a short period of time. 
Beginning on Tuesday 10 September, patients in Perth, Bunbury and Busselton with issues such as minor fractures, dislocations, stings, acute neck pain, and wound infections will be able to seek urgent care, ideally faster than in an emergency department (ED).
The $2 million 18-month trial will test the idea that redirecting urgent patients able to be treated in primary care will ease pressure on the state’s overcrowded EDs.
Last year’s Sustainable Health Review found 190,000 of WA’s 2017–18 ED visits – almost one in five – could have been avoided by being treated in primary care, while a recent study found the number of ED presentations in WA potentially able to be managed by GPs was between 20–40%.
The WA Primary Health Alliance states that consumer research by the Department of Health WA found the decision to go to ED is informed by cost, distance and time.
‘[I]f people were able to find a general practice that could provide a timely appointment that was close to where they lived, they would prefer to go to a GP,’ the site states.
RACGP WA Chair Dr Sean Stevens hailed the trial as an ‘excellent solution’ to the issue of urgent care by making use of excess capacity within general practice.
‘The trial will allow suitably equipped general practices to treat patients for urgent but not life-threatening conditions and thereby divert patients from ED,’ he told newsGP.  

RACGP WA Chair Dr Sean Stevens called the trial an ‘excellent solution’. 

Participating clinics must have a treatment room and facilities for suturing and plastering, with quick access to radiology and pathology to enable prompt return of results.
The trial will run on a government website and app, which directs people seeking urgent care to available appointments between 8.00 am and 8.00 pm daily.
A key part of the trial is ensuring urgent patients are handed back to their regular GP.
Dr Stevens said the approach will allow people to be seen ‘quickly and efficiently in general practices that are geared up to deal with urgent conditions’.
The state-based trial comes after Dr Stevens earlier publicly criticised a federal urgent care trial, in which $28 million was allocated to St John Ambulance to open four new urgent care centres.
Dr Stevens warned the federal trial risked fragmenting care and creating an unfair playing field.
‘The state urgent care clinics are very different to the federally-funded clinic,’ he said.
‘The state model was developed over 18 months with widespread input from all areas of the primary care landscape and is a cost-effective approach to provide urgent care for the people of Western Australia, right across the state.
‘The federally-funded model was announced in the middle of an election campaign with no consultation with primary care and allows for four new urgent care clinics in Perth at a cost of $28m [14 times the cost of the State Government model].’
Practices can apply to the next round of the trial between 1–30 October.

emergency primary care urgent care Western Australia

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