This site is intended for health professionals only

Field: GPs ‘should never have given up responsibility for out-of-hours care’

NHS England’s deputy medical director says GPs should ‘never have given up the responsibility for out of hours care’, as the NHS looks at how to ease the pressures on urgent care services.

Posting via his Twitter account, Professor Steve Field, who is deputy national medical director at NHS England and a GP in Birmingham, said that solving the A&E crisis ‘will be complex’, but must involve GPs.

He said: ‘GPs across England go to work each day to do their best and care for our patients - it’s the system - we should never have given up the responsibility for out-of-hours care - causes of A&E crisis are complex - solutions will be too, but must involve general practice.’

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada also took to Twitter to join the debate. She said: ‘No correlation btw change in GP OOH contract & rise in AE admissions. No evidence that GPs are ‘too blame’ for crisis in A&E. It’s hard enough being a GP at moment without this.’

‘Rise in AE related to lack of access to social care - NOT GPs and new OOH contract. Important that in these times we don’t use the ‘blame-game”. GPs are working flat out.’

The news comes as an NHS England review is looking at whether GPs should be asked to resume responsibilty for out-of-hours, reversing the 2004 contractual decision to allow GPs to opt out.

Health ministers have attacked the ‘poor provision of primary care’ for rising pressure on A&E departments over the past week, with Dr Dan Poulter saying yesterday that ‘there is no GP out of hours’.

This afternoon, health secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to reiterate comments that A&E attendance was driven up by the formation of the 2004 ‘new GMS’ contract for GPs, referring to the review that NHS England is currently undertaking with regards to emergency and urgent care.

Earlier today Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said it would be ‘impossible’ for GPs to take on out-of-hours care responsibility again, because of the rise in GP workload pressure. Meanwhile the GPC said it would defend the 2004 contract framework which, according to negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul, is ‘remarkably flexible and fit for purpose for the future’.