MPs to investigate primary care role in emergency services

MPs will investigate the role of primary care and community services in delivering emergency healthcare as part of a review that will also assess the chaotic roll-out of NHS 111.

Emergency care: health select committee to launch review
Emergency care: health select committee to launch review

A House of Commons health select committee inquiry into ‘emergency services and emergency care’ will assess the case for an overhaul of the locations from which care is currently delivered.

It will look at whether minor injury and urgent care services can be moved out of hospital A&E departments into community or primary care, and consider whether some hospital services should be centralised.

The announcement of the review comes a day after health secretary Jeremy Hunt blamed the ‘disastrous’ 2004 GP contract for driving up use of A&E services by leaving the NHS with ‘poor primary care alternatives’.

Problems with the roll-out of NHS 111 across England will come under scrutiny too, with the committee calling for evidence on the ‘experience to date of the transition from NHS Direct to the NHS 111 service’.

MPs leading the select committee review will also look at whether the establishment of CCGs from April is likely to bring better integration between ambulance services and primary care.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Hunt rejected criticism of the government’s record on A&E waiting times.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘A&Es across England are being closed although all are under intense pressure.

‘For 11 weeks running the NHS has missed the government’s national A&E target.

‘Last week in some places one in three patients waited more than four hours in scenes not seen since the bad old days of the mid 1990s.’

But Mr Hunt said: ‘For the last year as a whole, which ended in March, this government hit the A&E target.

‘There is a lot of pressure on A&E, a million more people using A&E every year compared to just two years ago.

‘And what are the root causes? Poor primary care alternatives that date directly back to the disastrous GP contract negotiated by his government and since when we have more than four million people additionally using A&E every year.'

The deadline for submitting evidence to the inquiry is 20 May.

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