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Hunt denies ‘picking a fight’ with GPs over out of hours

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has hit back at claims he is ‘picking a fight with GPs’ when put on the spot at the NHS Confederation conference this morning.

Mr Hunt claimed he had ‘picked a fight with the structure’ and not GPs over out-of-hours care provision in a Q&A session, hosted by BBC Radio 4 presenter Sarah Montague, after his speech in Liverpool. Mr Hunt also reiterated his view that patients attend A&E because they lack access to primary care.

Mr Hunt said: ‘[GPs’] contract and the incentives we use has made it very difficult for them to take a whole-person approach.

‘I haven’t picked a fight with GPs. I have picked a fight with the structure,’ he added. ‘What do you want me to do? When every A&E I visit says [they are under pressure because of the lack of other facilities for patients]. I think this is an issue we do need to address.’

Asked whether he still viewed being health secretary as a great opportunity, Mr Hunt added: ‘I have a few more sleepless nights… But health means more to people than any other area… [and] I wouldn’t swap the system that we have for any other system.’

It comes as the row of GP out-of-hours care provision escalated further over the last few days, with the RCGP expressing support for Mr Hunt’s wishes for better 24/7 primary care for the most ‘vulnerable’ patients while the GPC branded these calls ‘discriminatory’.