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Hunt agrees to meet with GPC over out-of-hours comments

The health secretary will meet with the GPC to discuss his controversial out-of-hours claims, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The news of a meeting, which has yet to be planned, comes as a row has raged for the past two weeks over Jeremy Hunt’s repeated comments blaming ‘poor primary care provision’ for a rise in A&E attendances since the 2004 GP contract allowed GPs to opt out of out-of-hours care provision.

Prompted by the Pulse article where Mr Hunt’s comments were first reported the GPC wrote to Mr Hunt demanding an urgent meeting but the DH had failed to respond to the letter by last Thursday, when Mr Hunt reiterated his comments in a conference speech that was also trailed in national media.

Today, a DH spokesperson said: ‘The secretary of state has made clear that he would be happy to meet with the BMA to discuss these issues further so he can work with them on solutions.

‘The fact is that compared to 2004, when the changes to the contract happened, we now have four million more people using A&E services a year. We think there are many reasons for this, access to out of hours care is one.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey commented: ‘I wouldn’t want to say more at the moment other than that GPs remain very angry at the comments he and his minister made last week and we have told him in no uncertain terms about this.’

A BMA press officer further said it has so far not had any official response from the DH regarding a meeting.

It comes as the BMA issued a statement to condemn the comments, which also included health minister Dr Dan Poulter telling BBC radio that the 2004 GP contract deal meant out-of-hours GP care had been ‘scrapped’, last week.

Yesterday, GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden gave Dr Poulter, who previously worked as an obstetrician, an ultimatum to withdraw the comments or he would report him to the GMC.