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Why did Jeremy Hunt take his children to A&E?

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Well, you’ve probably read the transcript by now of what our mate Jezza said during health questions yesterday, but just in case you haven’t, here it is: ‘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. We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency, and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E departments.’

Interesting. I’d like to unpick this, if I may.

1 ‘I took my own children to an A&E department at the weekend.’ So much for confidentiality. So the little Jezzlets are all under five, true, but aren’t they entitled to medical privacy? Did their dad ask for their consent? After all, they may have capacity - their mother’s pretty bright.

2 ’…my own children…’ Plural. All of them. Three, last time I counted. So let’s think. If they were all ill, that would be some sort of infectious illness, wouldn’t it? Unlikely that all three should fall foul of something dreadful simultaneously, so that leaves us with ailments along the lines of, let’s think, probably D&V, or an URTI. So they’re being dragged to A&E – that’s ‘accident’ and ‘emergency’, Jeremy – for the squits, or a cold. Probably.

3 ‘Because I did not want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP.’ So this couldn’t wait for a routine appointment? Dad’s too pressed to take them to the GP in normal working hours for a triple appointment? What, like he’s too busy running the NHS or something?

4 ‘We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency.’ So people are getting so dumbed down that they don’t know that “urgent” and “emergency” are the same thing? And that a minor viral illness is neither?

5 ‘Making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E departments.’ Not if I’m full of people at the weekend bringing minor illness which doesn’t need medical attention at all, or which could wait for a routine appointment, in which case you will go to A&E anyway because you will not want to “wait until later on to take them to see a GP”.

6 ‘With a million calls a month, NHS 111 is helping the NHS deal with growing demand by directing people to the most appropriate place for their injury or illness.’ Well spotted. He didn’t actually say that yesterday. But he did say it about a month ago. Which makes you wonder why he didn’t phone NHS 111 at the weekend, as advised on NHS Choices, which Jez may have heard of, even if he’s never heard of the national phoneline. Actually, maybe I know why. NHS Choices states that NHS 111 is appropriate for something that is not “an immediate emergency”. And how was Jeremy to know whether this almost certainly trivial childhood viral illness was urgent, an emergency, or an immediate emergency? It’s tricky, isn’t it?

So, six examples of the illogical, the inappropriate and the health-illiterate in the space of five sentences. Which sounds bad. But give him a break. He’s only the health secretary. And his kids are ill, remember?

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield

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Readers' comments (31)

  • Vinci Ho

    I would be very interested to know exactly what happened when he walked into A/E with his kids .
    '' OMG , it is him! Is this part of an CQC inspection with no prior warning?''

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  • I would probably have read him the riot act which I have done previously to fairly good effect in my ED. I've seen people go home with their tails between their legs then write a letter of contrition to the department after they've had time to think about things. Not that I woul expect that from our hopelessly out of touch Health Secretary.

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  • This one simple act, and his naive admission of it, confirms that we are all doomed! How can CCGs make the health service work when the idiot behaves like this. We might expect it from some of the great unwashed but not from a responsible adult, let alone the health secretary. Overnight I have some from being a commissioner who cares and who struggles to find a solution, to one who says "the A/E crisis - who gives a f**k? Let the government sort it out"
    You are a disaster Mr Hunt!

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  • What's worse is his lack of INSIGHT into how inappropriate and dumb he makes himself look.

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  • A useful experiment would be to stop doing any OOH work for 2 weeks over Christmas . If there is no problem then Jezza is right we're an irrelevance . But If A+E is swamped it proves he's a daft Hunt.

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  • Ricardo Gaudoin

    Acording to NHS England, 111 is doing an excellent service with only recommending (11th May 2014 Sitreps) 7.2% of calls sent to A/E with 62.1% to see Primary Care and 15.5% Home Management Advice and4.4% other services with 10.8% needing an Ambulance. I agree Mr H should have called 111 as a first line of action; but, as we know parents with young children prefer to attend A/E (from their past experience) as their first line of action, where they are aware that IV treatment/s etc is readily available if needed.

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  • Don't forget, this man believes in homeopathy. Is anybody really surprised about this latest revelation about him?

    Nobody I speak to has the slightest suggestion of any positives to say about him.

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  • Pahaha!!! I LOVE Coppefield! I thought exactly the same as it said 'his children' ie > 1!!!

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  • What a lovely demonstration of leading by example. How about using services appropriately, not for the sake of convenience!!!

    As far as I am concerned this says everything we need to know about politics in the NHS

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  • maybe he got homeopathic treatement.

    hope he had to wait, wouldn't have waited at our out of hours

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From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder