Editorial: A&E row highlights need for more GPs

As GP went to press, health secretary Jeremy Hunt was still to give his widely trailed speech, in which he was expected to call for GPs to take back responsibility for patients' out-of-hours care.

The UK LMCs conference in London was also due to debate whether to instruct the GPC to give the government a 'strong and categorically clear message that GPs will not take back responsibility for the provision of out-of-hours services'.

Delivering the content of such a speech via the front page of the Daily Mail was unlikely to win Mr Hunt any sensitivity points from GPs and it is difficult to recall any other speech generating quite so much anger from the profession over such a long period before it was actually given.

Are A&Es in crisis? There is debate over the figures. Are the biggest increases in numbers actually in secondary units such as walk-in centres and minor injuries clinics, which might be viewed as fuelling A&E demand?

Is the ratcheting up of the political argument a smokescreen to cover the government's botched introduction of the NHS 111 service last month?

It is undeniable that people are living longer, increasingly developing multiple conditions, meaning their care is more complex. GPs'

workload is rising and while no-one would argue for a return to the days when GPs worked around the clock, the likelihood is that their involvement in CCGs will inevitably lead to an increasing out-of-hours responsibility.

CCGs are also likely to be key in finding solutions which could include integrating care between A&E, inand out-of-hours services, and caring for more patients in the community so they do not become acutely ill and require a GP appointment or A&E attention.

But now is also the time to highlight the RCGP's call earlier this year for 10,000 new GPs. The profession is voicing concerns about increasing workload and burnout.

Mr Hunt blaming GPs for an A&E crisis misses the point that by increasing the workforce, the health secretary could send out the message that he sees the profession as a solution to his problems - not their cause.

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