RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said it was ‘unacceptable’ to lay the blame for pressure on A&E at the door of ‘hardworking GPs who are also under huge pressure as we try to manage ever-increasing workloads with diminishing resources’.
The college was responding to comments at the weekend by NHS England’s national director for acute episodes of care, Professor Keith Willett, who is leading a review of urgent care due to publish findings later this autumn.
Professor Willett told Sky News that up to a third of A&E patients should be treated in general practice, and patients were turning up at emergency departments because they could not get GP appointments quickly enough.
‘We can look at the way primary care is available to people,' he said. ‘By changing the way we deliver services we can start to address the demand.’
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News: ‘The role of GPs in caring for older people needs to be proactive - checking up on people, finding out how they are, heading off problems before they happen - rather than reactive.’
Professor Gerada said while there was much attention on the A&E crisis, there was an ‘unseen crisis unfolding in general practice, the consequences of which could be even more severe’.
‘While we don't begrudge our A&E colleagues the money being poured into the service, this is a short-term sticking plaster. The real solution is long-term investment in general practice - including more GPs - so that we can do more for patients in our communities and prevent people going to hospital apart from when it is absolutely necessary.’
It was unhelpful to pit different parts of the NHS against each other, she added.