Chancellor Philip Hammond yesterday pumped £100 million into projects aimed at setting up primary care centres alongside A&E departments.
The plan is backed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine – but not by the Royal College of GPs, which warned it could divert attention and resources from the crisis in general practice.
Mr Hammond said it would be capital funding to pay for up to 100 projects.
Mr Hammond said: “Experience has shown that on-site GP triage in A&E departments can have a significant and positive impact on A&E waiting times.”
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “GPs working in A&E units have been successful in some areas, but the decision to implement this must be based on local need. The government must realise that the most severe pressures in A&E are not simply down to inappropriate attendance but the inability to admit seriously unwell patients, and lack of capacity to discharge them into the community.
“The entire health and social care system is in crisis so the extra funding for social care is a good start, but it is only a short term sticking plaster and we must make sure that the extra investment and additional GPs promised by NHS England in the GP Forward View do not fall by the wayside.”
She added: “We feel that the best place for GPs is working with patients in their communities to provide high quality general practice and the money just announced for new triage systems in emergency departments would achieve more if most was spent shoring up general practice so we can deliver more care and services, and in doing so alleviate pressures right across the NHS.”
And British Medical Association chair Dr Mark Porter warned: “Having GPs in A&E won’t reduce admissions – if anything this could have the effect of attracting more patients to hospitals.
“The government also needs to explain how it will fund and recruit GPs to work on site at hospitals when there already aren’t enough to meet the needs of the public.”
RCEM vice-president Dr Chris Moulton gave the news a “cautious” welcome.
He said: “For some time, RCEM has called for co-location of urgent care services around major A&E departments and having primary care on site will undoubtedly benefit patients.
“The College would like to see this as the first step to co-locating more services, including frailty teams and out-of-hours mental health teams, around the A&E department.
“By creating a hub of services, patients can be swiftly directed to the treatment or service most appropriate for their needs, without the need to travel elsewhere or book another appointment.”
He added: “We need more beds and more doctors; this budget does not address these key issues.”