Hunt: A&E know some patients better than GPs
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has claimed that A&E staff know some patients ’ more than their own GPs’ in a letter submitted to a national newspaper ahead of a speech this week on his plans to improve elderly care.
Mr Hunt is due to make an announcement this week on his plans for a ‘named clinician’ to take charge of the vulnerable elderly, and he claims in the letter that many of this group of patients ‘feel there’s no reliable alternative to hospital’.
He blames this on ‘misguided’ changes to the GP contract in 2004 and he raises the prospect of GPs and district nurses working together to keep patients out of hospital.
The letter in the Telegraph this morning says: ‘Too many old people feel there’s no reliable alternative to hospital. Since the last Government’s misguided changes to the GP contract, it’s become easier to go to A&E and harder to go and see a GP. In fact, we’ve got to a point where A&E staff know some patients better than their own GPs.
‘Of course, GPs don’t want it to be this way, and are themselves working harder than ever before. But sadly the 2004 contract changes undermined the personal link between them and their patients, as well as imposing a whole range of bureaucratic burdens. Labour’s intentions, as ever, were good. But the effect was to make it harder for GPs to be family doctors and give them less time for patients.
‘I’ll be announcing more about the changes we want through this year’s GP contract today. We need a much better way for vulnerable old people to journey through the NHS. They need someone from the service to be keeping tabs on them and championing them through the system all the time – and making sure they’re a name, not a number, whether or not they are in hospital.
‘As a member of the public I would like that responsible person to be my GP – but of course they will need support from many others, including our dedicated district nurses.’
But Professor Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, said the comments would be ‘disheartening and morale-sapping’ for GPs.
She said: ‘Because of insufficient resourcing for general practice four out of five family doctors are concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to deliver continuity of care to vulnerable elderly people.
‘Once again hardworking GPs are being attacked when the Government should be supporting them and giving general practice its fair share of NHS funding. Without that we cannot provide the quality of services in the community for all our patients that we all want.’