Editorial: Hunt underestimates public trust in GPs

In February a poll by Ipsos MORI found doctors were the most trusted profession (89%), with politicians (18%) trailing in last out of 17 categories. Even the ordinary person in the street earned a 64% trust rating.

Fast forward four months and the row over A&E pressure and its causes continues to rage on. Last week, research by The King's Fund think tank found 6% of patients waited four hours or longer in A&E between January and March 2013, the highest level since 2004.

Debate over out of hours and whether GPs should take back responsibility, as health secretary Jeremy Hunt has indicated, was a feature of the UK LMCs conference last month in central London (pages 25, 29 and 30).

Detail about what Mr Hunt is proposing is lacking, but the subject is likely to form a major part of negotiations for the GMS contract for 2014/15.

With an election two years away, it appears Mr Hunt is laying the groundwork for his NHS pitch with the argument that it was the 2004 contract, negotiated by Labour, allowing GPs to opt out of out-of-hours responsibility that is to blame for problems in A&E.

It's a world away from the rhetoric used by his much-maligned predecessor Andrew Lansley, whose vision of GPs at the helm of CCGs making contract decisions has now been realised.

Although Mr Hunt's argument that the contract freeing GPs from 24-hour responsibility is the problem might play well in 10 Downing Street or across the road at Richmond House, its utter failure to convince the LMCs conference was laid bare. Instead, it is antagonising the very profession that Mr Lansley was so keen to win over.

On page 20 we look at the launch of Londonwide LMCs' brilliant General Practice Cares campaign to counter the negative spin emanating from this government and on to the pages of the Daily Mail.

Mr Hunt would do well to bear in mind that campaign and the Ipsos MORI poll revealing who the public trusts. The NHS is an institution voters hold dear. Lose the backing of those who work in it and watch the government's chances of success in a 2015 election diminish ever further.

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