Thursday, 6 June 2013

Top Tory rejects Jeremy Hunt claim that Labour GP deal caused A&E crisis

Top Tory rejects Jeremy Hunt claim that Labour GP deal caused A&E crisis: Former health secretary Stephen Dorrell backs Labour's new proposal for tackling patient numbers in emergency wards
Stephen Dorrell, the Tory chair of the health select committee, has publicly disagreed with the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, over linking the crisis in A&E departments to GPs opting out of working nights and weekends.

Dorrell instead supported Labour's plans for dealing with the rising tide of emergency patients.
In a remarkable intervention during a urgent Commons debate, he questioned Hunt's claim that Labour was to blame for the lack of alternatives to casualty departments through the agreement to a new contract with family doctors in 2004.
The government has sought to blame longer accident and emergency waiting times on the renegotiation of contracts. The move allowed doctors to opt out of working nights and weekends, putting more pressure on A&E departments.
Dorrell told MPs he thought the GP contract was "why we've got service pressures in the National Health Service", but he said he did not think it was the reason for the current crisis.
In a surprise move Dorrell also praised the opposition's plan to deal with rising patient numbers in emergency wards.
Andy Burnham, Labour's health spokesman, called to end the "bed blocking" crunch in the service by integrating the NHS with social care – in effect, letting the health service pay to move elderly patients out into the community to free up hospital beds.
In parliament Dorrell backed Labour's plan, taking the health secretary by surprise.
Dorrell said: "I'm often told that when I go and make the case for greater urgency about integration between the different parts of the health and care system, I'm supporting Andy Burnham's plan. I'm quite happy to support Andy Burnham's plan."
The intervention will be a significant setback to the health secretary, who had been criticised for politicising the issue of A&E for political gain.
In May, Hunt attempted to pull together a £300m fund to solve the crisis despite resistance from the new NHS England quango, which is meant to run the health service without micro-management from politicians.
Making A&E waiting times an issue has also given the Labour party ammunition to attack the government.
On Wednesday Labour's leader, Ed Miliband, clashed with the prime minister over claims that the NHS was "not safe" in the government's hands – highlighting rising casualty figures and waiting times.
Miliband claimed there were more people waiting on trolleys and being held in the back of ambulances, and more cancelled operations, while people were "waiting for hours and hours in A&E".
The opposition had produced figures showing that out 34 of the 37 weeks Hunt had been in his post, large A&E departments in England had missed even the government's shortened waiting time target.
Burnham had written to Hunt pointing out that the latest quarterly data showed that almost one in 10 patients were not seen within four hours of arrival at the main A&E units.
Labour proposes that £1.2bn of underspent cash from the health department be used, over the next two years, to ease the crisis in social care.
Burnham said: "The government's entire defence on the A&E crisis was demolished before our eyes when a former Tory health secretary sent a torpedo into it. This is a humiliation for Jeremy Hunt and the spin can't go on. He must act now on the real causes of this crisis."
A spokesperson for the health department said that the secretary had "never relied on one argument about what caused A&E waits", and there were "many factors to consider". The Guardian

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