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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)

  • Next time Miss May comes to me for her smear, HRT review and breast lump check, as well as those piles from sitting in Brussels too long and review her SSRI dosage, I'll ask her which one of her problems would she chose as I don't have time for the rest

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  • Is there no-one like Arthur Scargill anymore who we can recruit to head the BMA and pay a fraction of our membership to simply organise a strike?

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  • of course the PM should apologise..... but she wont!! When has a politician ever apologised apart from possibly as they take their 'golden goodbye' as they jump ship or are pushed?

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  • Our esteemed leaders are too busy to pay any attention. May's focus is Brexit and Jeremy is busy cashing his £15 million cheque. Meanwhile the NHS burns. I've never seen colleagues as angry as today.

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  • Dr Dean Eggitt

    Dear 3.06pm. GPS cannot strike as they are mostly independent contractors to the NHS. They can enter into a contract dispute but are not protected by their union as one might usually be under a "strike".

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  • The genie was out of the bottle several years ago, when, for political point scoring, the distinction between 'routine in hours work' and 'urgent out of hours cannot wait until next routine surgery' was blurred, so patients could be forgiven for assuming any problem could be dealt with at any time. We need an honest debate with the public as to what services they think should be provided, during which hours and for what cost? Maybe 'convenient Saturday and Sunday appointments' for fit working age people are not a priority in today's hard pressed NHS.
    Similarly, the last administration's 'walk in clinics' now quietly disbanded, again encouraged and stoked demand and duplicated GP services. Surprise surprise, many patients think that the 'Urgent Care Centre' is their replacement. Don't blame the patients though! when I started in GP in the 1980s, and did our own on call, by the way, with less stress than today, we didn't have nearly as many frail elderly in the 80-98 age group struggling with multi-morbidities. These patients WILL end up in hospital, come what may, due to the nature of their conditions, and we know full well that all the 'preventing admission' strategies have been proven to be largely futile (see relevant research BMJ) Social care is a complete mess. SO, BIG MISTAKE Theresa May, to attack GPs in this way. Mark my words, the next general Election will be fought on the NHS and successive governments' failure to honestly address the issues. A gift to Labour, even under Corbyn's lacklustre performance as leader. Come on GP Leaders and MPs, there needs to be much more loud and clear 'tell them it how it is!"

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator.

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  • The only question that needs to be asked ( particularly of the Daily Heil ) is if general practice is such a cushy well paid sinecure why is there no queue of lazy money grabbers stretching round the block ,eager to get their snouts in the trough ?

    could it be that its such fucking awful job that no one wants to do it ?

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  • Council of Despair

    poor prime minister - she has a Brexit crisis, NHS crisis and now a Northern Ireland constitutional crisis.

    Ironically, if the NI GPs to leave the NHS she will probably blame GPs yet again. It is going to be a very interesting few months !

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  • Vinci Ho

    Dedicate Rag'n'Bone Man wonderful song 'Human' to us all:
    Maybe I'm foolish, maybe I'm blind
    Thinking I can see through this and see what's behind
    Got no way to prove it so maybe I'm lied

    But I'm only human after all, I'm only human after all
    Don't put your blame on me
    Don't put your blame on me

    Take a look in the mirror and what do you see
    Do you see it clearer or are you deceived in what you believe

    Cause I'm only human after all, you're only human after all
    Don't put the blame on me
    Don't put your blame on me.......

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