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Independents' Day

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.’




Readers' comments (29)

  • I'm so glad I'm retiring next year - this is just blatant propaganda to use as a stick to beat us with - has no basis in fact whatsover!

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  • I think there is more work to be done with care homes to make them less risk adverse. Ie not just default calling an ambulance. On the other hand, the population is ageing and elderly people often do need AE. However, many recurrent attenders at A&E have significant mental health and alcohol problems. In fact, I put alcohol misuse as the number one factor in making AE an undesirable career choice. After my stint in AE as SHO, I couldn't even look at a beer for six months due to the disgraceful behaviour of many attenders at our AE department! This just shows how completely ill informed Hunt really is. Hunt needs to tackle society, their expectations and how some sections of society expect to take all and not to give. Actions need consequence. ie if you turn up to A&E intoxicated and need help because you are intoxicated after a night on the town - should you be charged for your care? Should this come out of PAYE? Radical ideas, but blaming GPs is ridiculous!

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  • Since 2004, General Practice has been cut year on year whilst demand is increasing which is why the NHS is struggling to cope. Sick people do in fact have to go to hospital because they have things like oxygen, intravenous antibiotics and fluids and intensive monitoring which will never be available in the community. The government needs to be honest and admit the fact that an aging population needs more health resources and this can only come by charging for some aspects of care and ensuring that General Practice is properly funded.

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  • Oh dear! Mr Hunt is clearly demonstrating his lack of understanding of general practice, assuming this has been reported accurately. How he thinks the 2004 contract has anything to do with 'undermining the personal link between GPs and their patients' is difficult to understand when much of the country were operating successful GP out of hours co-operatives prior to 2004, which rthemselves were started because of the spiralling night work. Even before the co-operatives, we often didn't know the patient who called us at 3 a.m. We already provide a 'named clinician' basis of care for our vulnerable patients. He can write words but unless his ideas are going to be properly resourced, nothing much will change. If he is a serious health minister then to instil change he will need to engage with the profession instead of handing out soundbites to newspapers; no one will take him seriously otherwise.

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  • Usual Govt nonsense. Do what I did and leave the UK.

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  • GP's are all working really hard. I am really proud to be a part of the profession. Please don't ask to charge people that have nothing to see us. We are one of the last bastion's of civilised society.

    Jeremy Hunt has issued another unfortunate statement. I am not sure what his evidence base is for these statements. I think it is really sad that David Cameron and the Conservative Party are being constantly embarrassed by this chap. The reality is our patients all love us and really saying things like this I really don't see how this helps the nation.

    Seriously if the nation thought we were overpaid waste of time then please let us know and we will be the first one's to withdraw and fully privatise, but actually we have a social responsibility.

    -anonymous salaried!

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  • anonymous @ 09.38 is so right. it is the same government who blocked the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol!
    Mr Hunt very clearly has absolutely no understanding of health and even less of primary care and his advisors, mostly glossy consultants from PWC and KMPG are not worth the substantial sums of money they are being paid

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  • So how will this be acheived? I hear no talk of the increase in numbers of GPs - so do i take it GPs will be geriatric services and that families and young people will be left to emergency services and that there will merely be a change in demographic with elderly the realm of the GP who cares long term in their own home and hospitals taking all non elderly to sepcialist services and immediate interventions? Or is this just a move to access to the NHS for old people only and the 'young'/families will be made to pay yet again? in Effect: Those people the insurance companies want to insure (and would be less risky - more profitable) are not the priority whereas those the insurance companies don't want to be involved (more costly/risky) in are the focus of the NHS - this is all a very transparent direction for the NHS, Mr Hunt is signalling the end of the NHS for ALL!

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  • Does this man know nothing but make stupid comments

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