Dr Louise Irvine on GP Out Of Hours Service

Dr Louise Irvine was invited to speak with BBC Surrey last week (27 Nov 2014). Click here to hear Louise.

BBC SURREY began the interview stating that the South West Surrey MP (Jeremy Hunt) has been criticised for taking his children to A&E rather than waiting for a GP appointment. This is what he said in the Commons on Tuesday:

I’ve taken my own children to an A&E department at the weekend precisely because I didn’t want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP. And I think we have to recognise that society is changing and people don’t always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it’s an emergency. Making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E departments.

The BBC SURREY interviewers spoke with Michael Wilson, chief executive of the trust which runs East Surrey Hospital, Dr Jonathan Inglesfield, medical director (Commissioning) at Guildford and Waverley CCG and Dr Louise Irvine, London GP and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Surrey.

Here is the section of the interview where Dr Louise Irvine is interviewed:

BBC SURREY: Let’s speak now to Dr Louise Irvine who is a GP standing against Jeremy Hunt in South West Surrey for the National Health Action Party. Morning, Dr Louise. Hello.

DR LOUISE IRVINE: Good morning.

BBC SURREY: The government says it’s putting in place arrangements for 7 day openings for GPs. So, is it trying to tackle the problem? They’re getting on with it, aren’t they?

DR LOUISE IRVINE:  Well, 7 day openings, if you think about the cost of that, the government is actually not prepared to fund what it would cost to increase GP opening hours by what would amount to 60% increase. I think the thing that the government is not doing, and Jeremy Hunt has failed to do, is say that there already is Out Of Hours (OOH) GP cover. Every part of the country is covered by a GP service. If you phone 111 & you need to speak to a GP or see your GP, this arrangement is made. He is irresponsible as Secretary of State for Health for not doing all he can to help raise awareness of this service. One in four people do not know about this service. That’s shocking. I think, you know, he’s not just an ordinary dad, we’ve all got kids, we’ve all been worried about having sick kids but, he is the Secretary of State for Health and he was totally irresponsible to be suggesting to people, by his example, that they should take sick children who may not be very seriously ill…we are not talking about children with asthma or diabetes … but children when you just want to see a doctor, taking them to A&E when he should have told people about the OOH GP service.

BBC SURREY: Right. The Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, yesterday in Prime Minister’s Question Time pulled this up and that was batted back to him by the Prime Minister. He said the problem is the GP contract set up by Labour. After that, lots of doctors actually opted out of OOH care, didn’t they?

DR LOUISE IRVINE: No. What’s happened is that it used to be that GPs provided OOH care directly. Now we still do where I work in SE London, through a co-operative and 10% of the country is covered by this. But, apart from that, the OOH GP services were commissioned by the primary care trusts in those days. Now OOH is still being provided by GPs. They are still GPs, simply that they are being employed by other organisations. But, it is still a GP that you will talk to and that you will see if it is a Sunday afternoon or a Saturday night if you need to see or speak to a GP. So, we are all still providing OOH services. It is just the way it has been arranged has changed. In fact, there’s been a reduction in the funding for GP OOH services. The National Audit Office has estimated there has been a £75m reduction once inflation has been taken into account, compared with 8 years ago. So, I think we need to put proper funding into GP OOH services. We need to make sure that 111 is fit for purpose and we need to publicise to people that there is an OOH service. In fact, we could even co-locate some of that beside A&Es. That might help. The most important thing is that people should not be going to A&E unless it is a very serious emergency. It is totally irresponsible for the Health Secretary to suggest that. The shocking fact here is that there have been more emergency admissions to English hospitals in the second week of November than in any other week in NHS history.

BBC SURREY: Which is exactly what sparked off the conversation from us this morning. Dr Louise Irvine, standing against Jeremy Hunt in South West Surrey for the National Health Action Party, thank you.

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