GPs should be responsible for the out of hours (OOH) service provided to their patients, the Health Secretary has said.
Although he insisted he was not blaming GPs for the problem, Hunt claimed a “closer personal relationship” with patients would ease the A&E crisis.
The Health Secretary believes OOH care declined after the GP contract was changed in 2004, with the public losing confidence and turning to A&E departments.
He said: “I would never blame GPs because I think they work extremely hard. I’ve been in GP surgeries and they have very, very long days.”
However, he added: “I think what happened was when you removed responsibility for services at the evenings and weekends from GPs, the service deteriorated.”
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “If you need to speak to a GP out of hours, you’ll generally be speaking to someone who’s a long way away from you who doesn’t know you, can’t see your medical notes.”
While he was not calling for family doctors to personally be on call all night, he added: “I think we need to go back to GPs having responsibility for making sure that for the people on their list, there is a good service available.
“And I think the reforms we’ve had in the health service help to make that happen, but I think there’s lots more we need to do.”