Margot James MP is PPS to Lord Green, Minister for Trade and Investment, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Trade & Investment and the MP for Stourbridge. Follow Margot on Twitter.
Attendance at A&E has increased by 50 per cent in the past decade, hospitals face ever-greater pressure on this department, and knock-on effects across their services. During the Easter recess, I did some research and met two NHS Trust CEOs, the Chair of my local Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group, the regional director of NHS Direct and the CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Trust. They confirmed that many cancellations of elective procedures were directly caused by unusually high numbers of urgent cases coming through A&E. So it is imperative that we understand the issues driving this surge in attendance.
The Health Secretary was quite right to identify the GP contract agreed in 2004, which led to a steep decline in GP out of hours commitment, as a factor causing increased pressure on A&E. Some 90 per cent of GP practices do not now provide out of hours services in the evenings or at weekends, and there has been an extra four million people each year using A&E since the GP contract changed. The inadequacy of the out of hours service was mentioned by everyone I spoke to in the NHS. We had a good service in this area before 2004, and it has not been fit for purpose since; Dr Laurence Buckman’s outburst recently does not change this fact.