The Alliance, which represents primary and community care leaders, accused the government of 'desperation' and acting unreasonably for seeking to blame the NHS itself for the crisis in the service.
Theresa May has been accused by GP leaders of seeking to ‘scapegoat’ general practice after reports that a Downing Street source had criticised practices for failing to meet patient demands for access.
Health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy this week denied that the government had been 'slagging off' GPs, and told peers that GPs 'do a fantastic job'. However, his comments again suggested that the government believes GPs must do more to tackle the NHS crisis.
Lord O'Shaughnessy said: 'The prime minister in her statement paid tribute to the work that GPs do and said that there were obligations around extended hours and the provision of out-of-hours healthcare - and it is quite right, with the pressures we face, that every part of the healthcare system steps up to fulfil its responsibilities just as others are doing, in order to meet the pressure we are under.'
Downing Street officials are also reported to have criticised NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens for being ‘insufficiently enthusiastic and responsive’. Mr Stevens last week told MPs that the government was ‘stretching it’ by saying the NHS had been given more money than it asked for.
The NHS Alliance said that it ‘smacks of desperation on the part of the government to blame sectors of the NHS and care; to refuse to accept that there is a huge and growing problem in health and care delivery, and to play fast and loose with the facts about funding'.
The group said criticism of Mr Stevens for not doing enough to alleviate the crisis ‘despite his valiant efforts at system transformation – was both unreasonable and counter-intuitive’.
NHS Alliance vice chair and south London GP Dr Brian Fisher said: ‘General practice is under severe strain with too few GPs and increasing demand and a freezing financial climate.
‘There is evidence that improved GP access results in less demand at A&E and that the relevance of the assistance provided varies.’
He added: ‘There are a number of ways in which A&E can safely reduce demand. For instance, routing to a primary care service based in the hospital the 30% of patients who do not need A&E.’
NHS Alliance primary care spokesman, GP Dr GP Ken Aswani called for discussions through the STP process to find solutions to health and care problems which draw on all community assets and reduce pressure on the NHS. ‘Health is built in the community; we must take action alongside our communities to stem demand,' he said.