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‘Irresponsible’ use of A&E by Health Secretary could add to winter pressure

What chance does the NHS have of getting the general public to use A&E Departments responsibly when even the Health Secretary admits he took his children to A&E at the weekend rather than waiting to see a GP?

The incident came to light during a health debate in Parliament on Tuesday (25th Nov) when the House of Commons was discussing seven-day-a-week access to GPs, which the Conservatives have promised should they win the General Election.

BBC News reported that Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt said: “I took my own children to an A&E Department at the weekend precisely because I did not want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP.

“We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency, and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E Departments.”

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that Mr Hunt had been “irresponsible”. He said Mr Hunt’s statement in the Commons implied that it is acceptable for the public to use A&E on an on-demand basis or as a substitute for GP services – “which is in contradiction with the official advice on NHS Choices”.

Mr Hunt may have been highlighting a problem many people have with regard to GP access, and obviously we don’t know the exact circumstances behind his weekend decision, but the NHS won’t thank him for potentially opening up the floodgates to A&E just ahead of the inevitable winter increase in ‘emergency’ visits.