Labour pledges GP appointment 'within 48 hours'

Ed Miliband made the pledge while on a visit to a hospital in Crewe

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Labour will try to ensure that all NHS patients in England get an appointment with a GP within 48 hours, party leader Ed Miliband has said.

He told the BBC's Nick Robinson there would be a "same-day consultation" for those with the "most urgent" problems.

Mr Miliband said the £100m funding for the pledge would come from savings made elsewhere in the NHS.

The Conservatives called Labour's plan "unfunded" and "pie-in-the-sky" and said it would lead to more taxation.

'A real difference'

Speaking on a visit to a hospital in Crewe, Cheshire, Mr Miliband said: "What we're promising is that everybody should get a same-day consultation with their GP surgery and, if they've got an urgent situation, see a GP - and then a guaranteed appointment within 48 hours.

It is telling that the party wants to talk about health, even though these are elections for the European Parliament and local council - which do not, of course, control the NHS.

"And we're going to pay for this by getting rid of much of the spending on bureaucracy and competition which is increasingly happening in the National Health Service.

"That will save £100m, which we will put in to up to three million extra GP appointments. That will make a real difference to GPs."

But a Conservative Party spokesman said: "This is an unfunded, pie-in-the-sky policy that Labour can't pay for and doctors can't deliver.

"More unfunded spending would mean more borrowing and more taxes to pay for it. It's the same old Labour.

"The last Labour government vandalised the relationship between GPs and their patients by introducing tick-box targets and scrapping family doctors, something we are now putting right.

"Far from improving access, another top-down target will leave GPs less time with their patients and put more pressure on general practice.

"The real solution is less micromanagement and more GPs, something we've already committed to."

Royal College of General Practitioners chairman Maureen Baker said Mr Miliband's announcement was "extremely welcome", adding that "it must not be another 'sticking plaster' solution but part of a broader, long-term, shift in investment".

According to NHS England's GP Patient Survey, published in December, the proportion of patients in England who were having to wait a week or more for an appointment had risen to 15%, compared with 14% a year before.

But the survey, involving nearly one million respondents, also showed 92.2% of people found making a GP appointment convenient.

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