Shadow health minister Luciana Berger, speaking at health questions in the House of Commons on 13 January, said last week’s patient survey showed 1m patients went to A&E because they could not get a GP appointment.
The government, she said, had ‘made it harder to see a GP and has caused the A&E crisis in the process'.
Labour was calling, added Ms Berger, 'for a GP to be placed in major A&Es to help ease this pressure'.
Conservative health minister Daniel Poulter said fewer than 2% of patients had to resort to A&E or walk in centres because they were unable to get a GP appointment.
The minister attacked the previous Labour government's ‘disastrous’ decision to ‘contract out’ GP out-of-hours services. 'Many patients are now struggling to receive appointments in the evening and at weekends,' he said.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt added that some hospitals already had GPs in their emergency departments.
‘The party opposite has been saying earlier today that they want GPs present in every A&E department. Well that is exactly what has happened at Salford Royal,' he said.
‘The reason that walk-in centre was closed is so that GP services could be moved closer to A&E.’
Co-location of primary care
In November the College of Emergency Medicine launched a campaign for primary care to be co-located with A&E departments to help rebuild emergency medicine.
Co-location, it said, would allow patients to be routed to the most appropriate service.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said in response to the CEM: ‘The real way to support not just A&E but the wider NHS, is to properly fund and expand the GP workforce. This has to be the priority for government and NHS England.
He added: ‘Hundreds of millions of pounds has been found for A&E but only pennies for general practice, and yet it's general practice where the real crisis is taking place. If the foundation is crumbing the whole house risks falling down and we must urgently deal with the crisis in general practice if we are to avoid the wider NHS collapsing.’
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