Labour tells coalition to 'get a grip' on A&E services

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The health secretary has been told to "cut the spin and get a grip" in order to repair accident and emergency services.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham tabled an urgent question on 21 May 2013, asking how the government will respond to "the current crisis" in A&E provision.

Mr Burnham claimed: "A&Es are under severe pressure. People are waiting hours to be seen on trolleys in corridors or in the back of queuing ambulances.

"This is a mess of their own making and it won't be solved by the secretary of state's spin or indeed by blaming GPs."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt replied: "We will address these problems inside A&Es and we will address the wider system-wide issues. I will say to the House, it is not all about the GP contract but that is a significant part of the issue because confidence in primary-care alternatives is one of the key drivers in the decision as to whether to go to A&E or not.

"We will take responsibility for sorting out those problems but the party opposite must take responsibility for creating a number of them."

In 2004, the Labour government agreed changes to GPs' contracts that allowed them to opt out of treating patients outside office hours.

The GPs' contract was also highlighted by Conservative chair of the Health Committee Stephen Dorrell.

"Patients seeking urgent care will go to that part of the health service where the lights are on and that the failure of the party opposite over 13 years to create genuinely integrated emergency care is what we're now harvesting the fruit of," he asserted.

Lib Dem Andrew George argued for more bed space, saying: "It's very difficult for A&E departments to function effectively if they haven't got an adequate bed capacity behind them."

Mr Hunt told him: "What hospitals say is it's not the number of beds they have it's the people who are in the beds that they have, who are not being properly discharged into the social care system."

Labour's urgent question followed evidence to MPs from NHS leaders that A&E services are on a "cliff edge".

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