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Leading think-tank busts myth that 2004 GP contract was ‘disastrous’ for A&E

A leading think-tank has dismissed the idea that the 2004 GP contract caused an A&E crisis as a ‘myth’, after the health secretary claimed last year that poor access to GP services is the major factor behind increases in A&E attendances.

In a new myth-buster guide, published today, the influential King’s Fund think-tank said there was ‘no evidence’ that the change in 2004 to make out-of-hours provision optional for GP practices had led to an increase in A&E attendances.

The report found that there was little way of knowing whether people attended A&E because they thought they would not be able to get an appointment with their GP.

The report said: ‘It has been said that more patients are attending A&E because they are unable to get appointments with their GP, while… Jeremy Hunt suggested that changes to the GP contract in 2004 led to increases in A&E attendance by removing responsibility for out-of-hours care from GPs.’

‘Many people who attend A&E could be cared for elsewhere - nearly 40% of patients who attend A&E are discharged without requiring treatment. It is likely that some people who visit walk-in centres or minor injuries units do so in preference to booking an appointment with their GP. However, it is hard to pin down the number of people who go to A&E because they think they will not be able to get an appointment with their GP, whether or not this is the case.’

It added: ‘There is no evidence that changes to the arrangements for providing out-of-hours services have led to an increase in A&E attendances… most people go to A&E during working hours and these hourly patterns in attendances have remained largely unchanged in recent years.’


Readers' comments (14)

  • Vinci Ho

    Considering King's Fund reports were usually pro-government , this just tells you the truth:
    A lie is a lie and cannot be disguised as the truth , the truth is the truth and cannot be condemned as a lie.
    There are three kinds of lies - lies , damned lies and statistics........

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  • can we have blanket coverage on the BBC "2004 contract did not cause A&E problem" ?

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  • Would be nice for Mr Hunt to be asked to comment on this.

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  • Vindicated. But predictably ignored by media as doesn't resonate with the image they wish us to have. The media in this country have no shame. The GP witch hunt must go on....

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  • Apology from Hunt? No, thought not. O for evidence-based politics and journalism.

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  • The original Kings Fund report quite definitively showed that the "increase" in A+E attendance was not at major A+E units but rather WICs and the like.

    Of course it was not reported widely. Why is anyone surprised that the Govt is less than honest about this subject>

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  • If this is the case which I am sure it is, then surely this implies that there is no need for 8 till 8 7/7 opening and CCG's,LMC's, NHS England et al can abandon this costly and now proven futile exercise and use the funds more beneficially.

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  • They've made us look rich.
    They've made us look lazy.
    Now this it will be a major triumph to enforce 8-8 7/7 as a political gesture now that groups are pecking at the 50m Cameron fund.
    They've made us look stupid.

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  • Dr Mustapha Tahir

    I think a public apology from Mr Hunt will be appropriate. May be he was mislead by his advisors? Not a resignation issue. In my opinion.

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  • Hunt is never going to apologise! Job well done as far as he is concerned -the public have the perception that A+E problems are the fault of GPs. Who cares about the truth apart from us!

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