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Jeremy Hunt: A&E departments very much under pressure

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says GPs' failure to provide proper out of hours care has forced millions of extra patients to go to hospital Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments.

He blamed what he said were "disastrous" changes to GPs' working hours almost a decade ago under Labour.

In a speech on Thursday he will suggest those changes should be reversed.

Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Hunt denied there was a crisis with A&E departments.

He said: "We're still seeing 90% of people within the four hour target, and the average wait is 53 minutes.

"But it is very much under pressure. We're seeing two million more people going through A&E every year than when we came to power, and that is a big increase in terms of the pressure on the system.

"We have a growing elderly population, and now a quarter of the whole country has a condition that's not curable, such as diabetes or asthma.

The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: "Jeremy Hunt needs to ask himself why two million more people are coming to A&E.

"Might it be because they've closed NHS walk-in centres, might it be that they've broken up a successful NHS Direct service, or might it be that they've cut social care funding to the bone?"

First broadcast on the Today programme on Thursday 25 April.

  • 25 Apr 2013