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Hunt: GP contract not to blame for A&E problems

7 June 2013

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Restrictive structures surrounding GPs have led to the A&E crisis, according to the Health Secretary, rather than problems with the 2004 GP contract.

In May 2013 Jeremy Hunt said 90% of GPs had opted out of providing out of hours care, leading the public to be unaware where to turn.

But in his speech at the NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool, the Health Secretary said he had not blamed GPs, and that the current “structure” is to blame for the problems.

Speaking passionately about his role, the Health Secretary said it’s his job to “argue for change”.

He said: “I do think there were some prominent mistakes in that GP contract, and if I want to change, I think it’s my job as Health Secretary to say what those mistakes were. I think the mistake was removing the responsibility for out of hours care from GPs.

“I haven’t picked a fight with GPs, I’ve picked a fight with the structures.” 

Jeremy Hunt explained that in his eyes, the 2004 GP contract made it more difficult for GPs to do a good job. Around 90% of GPs opted out of providing out of hours care, leading to patients being “unsure there is anything between the GP surgery and A&E”.

This in addition to “payment incentives”, has made it difficult for GPs to take a holistic view of patient care, Hunt believes.

“I don’t think there’s a problem with the quality of GPs, they work incredibly hard. But I think there is a problem with the structures that don’t get the best out of them.

“We need to rediscover the idea of family doctoring. GPs I’ve spoken to said this is the reason I became a doctor, I believe in the principles of family doctoring, it’s just too hard with the structures we have,” he said.

In recent months GPs have lashed back against what was taken to be an “attack” on GPs, claiming that the Secretary of State was blaming GPs for A&Es being over-capacity.

His speeches in late May introducing a chief inspector of primary care and calling for an x were described as “extremely demoralising” and “neither helpful nor productive” by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA).

But Hunt said many GPs he has spoken to support his ideal of a return to “family doctoring”.