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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)

  • Her comments only highlights her complete lack of understanding of the issue. She needs to do much more than apologise. She should consider her position as prime minister after such blatant lies to the public and NHS workers. I hope she is held to account this Wednesday at PM Q's.

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  • Will this encourage doctors to chose the GP option ?

    This attack is designed to finish off general practice by starving the profession of new recruits .

    The patients will miss us when we've gone.

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  • I HAVE ASKED THE EDITOR TO HIGHLIGHT TO THE MEDIA ABOUT THE TORIES "CRIMINAL CUTS" OF 40% TO GP EXTENDED HOURS SPENDING IN 2011-CONVENIENTLY FORGOTTEN AND UNKNOWN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
    THE TORY PUPPET MEDIA, OF COURSE, WILL NOT PUBLISH ANY FACTS WHICH MIGHT BE AWKWARD FOR THEIR "MAN IN NUMBER 10" JEREMY (THE FRIEND OF THE TORY PRESS) HUNT BUT MAYBE SOMEONE WILL STAND UP TO THIS "MULTIMILLIONAIRE BULLY AND GANGSTER"

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  • PULSE,DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA-KEEP SPEAKING THE TRUTH AND TELLING THE PUBLIC "LITTLE FACTS LIKE 40% CUTS IN 2011 THAT THEY DID NOT KNOW ABOUT".
    YOU DON'T NEED PERMISSION FROM PULSE EDITORIAL BOARD TO SPEAK OUT.

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  • Healthy Cynic

    Last time I checked my contract it was to provide services from 8am - 6.30pm, and the Government was responsible For 6.30pm-8am. If someone isn't doing their job they should be criticised. But it's not the GP.
    This is such a fundamental misunderstanding of our contractual duties that it is really untenable to engage with government until they get it.

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  • http://news.sky.com/story/hunt-to-get-16315m-payout-from-hotcourses-sale-amid-nhs-crisis-10730426

    Nice for some...

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  • we did extended hours contracta couple of years and there was saturday demand-but then the contract was simply not renewed/reoffered ,presumably because of funding decisions, we never heard...so it stopped happening.We were obviously never going to fund a receptionist/running costs out of our own pockets for the privilege of working saturday surgeries unpaid.simple economics .

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  • Vincenzo Pascale

    Ok Guys. In April I will not renew my registration to the GMC. It seems that work as GP in the UK is as to enter the hell's doors (Read the "Divina Commedia" introduction). I've worked in Italy, Spain, Ireland, Africa. But it is the first time that I see so great sufferance of my colleagues. Moreover the Medical Councils in the other Countries are very respectful of doctors. In the UK it seems that also the GMC is always hunting witches. I'm deeply disgusted, and after Brexit I understand that not many European doctor will go in the UK. All my solidarity with my unfortunate GP colleagues of the UK

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  • There is plenty more of the same to come from No 10 as Mrs May's new health adviser is Dr James Kent, a former junior doctor who left medicine to become management consultant. He has expressed his views on the NHS in several articles, easily accessible on the net.
    Perhaps, PULSE might consider seeking an interview with Dr Kent.

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  • Introduce payment per consultation.
    This will ensure that maximum number of patients gets seen in Primary Care.

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