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Calls for Theresa May to apologise for blaming GPs over A&E crisis

Prime Minister Theresa May should apologise to GPs for scapegoating them for the A&E crisis, Tory MP, House of Commons health committee chair and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston has said.

Her comments come as a Downing Street source told newspapers that GP practices were 'not providing access that patients need'.

Saturday papers quoted a No 10 source as saying that it 'is increasingly clear that a large number of surgeries are not providing access that patients need – and that patients are suffering as a result because they are then forced to go to A&E to seek care'.

'It's also bad for hospitals, who then face additional pressure on their services,' the source added.

Papers reported that Prime Minister Theresa May wants GP practices to open seven days a week, 8am to 8pm, unless they could prove the demand was not there, or risk losing funding.

But Dr Wollaston told the Independent: 'I do feel this is going to backfire, I think it was the wrong thing to say, and I think frankly they should apologise.'

She also took to Twitter to say it was 'beyond belief that anyone would think that attacking an overstretched and demoralised primary care would serve any purpose whatsoever'.

She added that both the 'public and NHS staff [deserve] better than scapegoating, smoke and mirrors' and the Government 'needs to start with honest discussion of the background pressures'.

According to Dr Wollaston the Government 'has failed to grasp scale of the increase in complexity of cases in A&E/GP' and the 'crisis [is] not driven by trivial conditions in wrong place.'

She added that the Government has 'over-promised on 7/7 8am-8pm routine service' as 'over-stretched primary care doesn't [have the] workforce to match without harming existing services'.

She said the real reason behind the crisis was 'financial squeeze over last Parliament [with] average 1.1% uplift/year at a time of huge demographic/demand surge and now set to fall [ahead of] 2018/19.'

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that 'much of the pressure on A&E has nothing to do with general practice: it has to do with seriously ill patients for whom seeing a GP would not prevent a hospital admission'

He said the long A&E waiting times were caused by 'a chronic shortage of beds, as well as delays in discharging elderly patients due to a funding crisis in community and social care'.

He added: 'This is not the time to deflect blame or scapegoat overstretched GP services, when the fundamental cause of this crisis is that funding is not keeping up with demand...

'Rather than trying to shamelessly shift the blame onto GPs, the Government should take responsibility for a crisis of its own making and outline an emergency plan to get to grips with the underlying cause, which is the chronic under-resourcing of the NHS and social care.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said it was 'not the case that GP surgery routine opening hours are contributing to the pressures our colleagues in A&E departments are currently facing'.

'GPs and our teams are also struggling to cope with increasing patient demand without enough investment, and without nearly enough family doctors and practice staff to deal with it - this is a year-long problem for us, not just during the winter,' she said.

On seven-day access, she said that it had 'never made sense to force GPs to offer services that there is little patient demand for'.

She added: 'Blaming GPs for the crisis facing our NHS is not going to help anyone, instead we need to start investing in our health service properly, so that there are adequate resources and clinical staff to deliver the care our patients need and deserve.'

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Readers' comments (33)

  • In this time of A&E crisis, let us not forget how Jeremy Hunt led the public by example in November 2014:

    "I took my own children to an A&E department at the weekend precisely because I did not want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP".

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30207608

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  • If GP's are running 8-8 7/7 the OOH service will collapse. Who will provide overnight cover ?
    Please can we have some joined up thinking .
    These are not unintended consequences ; they are entirely predictable consequences .

    A simple solution £75 per patient seen -same as A+E .

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  • Council of Despair

    There is nothing for her to apologise for.

    It is Conservative policy to maintain a grip on public spending and reduce costs.

    She and the other ministers are playing to a particular group of voters - who vocally support them.

    If you read the comments on either side of the press (right and left wing) there are a hard core group of Tory voters that agree with her and want GPs to be available more and to 'earn their keep'. They are not interested in any facts or evidence. Indeed, recent polls put the conservatives ahead in being trusted to manage the NHS.

    What this means is no more money means no more money and we just have to manage with what we are given.

    We have two choices either put up with this in order to keep the NHS going or leave. Since leave is not an option that is on the table then we have no choice but to do what we are told. If individual GPs don't like that then they will have to make individual choices but on past track record the GPC is not going to offer 'leave' as an option and will agree to what ever the government wants. We are lucky she didn't just halve our pay and ban retirements.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    A shouty rant from someone (unelected PM) who hasn't got a clue what to do about the NHS, Brexit or much else.

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  • Diversify.

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  • There was an old woman called May
    Who'd had a terrible day
    With dreadful news
    About A+E blues
    Those lazy GP's will pay.

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  • I do not understand why someone does not tweek the rules such that GPs can see their patients private if they wish and truts open a private A+E wing. This will take the baby boomers out of the system and free capacity and funding. It is not at all ideal but the social experiment is reaching its natural conclusion.

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  • TM has form when it comes to deflecting blame for something that her pay grade clearly demands she should have a handle on. Remember the border force fiasco of 2011?

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  • "I do not understand why someone does not tweek the rules such that GPs can see their patients private "

    It isn't the funding - its the time and capacity.

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  • Who is going to clear the results, letters, review the prescriptions, issue requests, sick notes, see emergencies and do home visits "to keep them out of hospitals" if there is no time after the morning surgery? Clearly one who do not understand the work but feel very entitled to comment/BS.

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