Hospitals across England are struggling under record pressure as hundreds of thousands arrive at A&E departments after failing to get an appointment with their family doctor the last time they tried, an official NHS England survey found.
Across England, one in four patients waits a week or more for an appointment after the Government’s decision to abolish the 48-hour appointment guarantee after the last election.
The survey of patients found that, in the North East & Cumbria, 54,922 patients attended A&E after failing to get an appointment with their GP. Across the country 930,901 people ended up in the Emergency Department instead of their local doctor surgery.
Earlier this month, Ed Miliband set out a five-point plan to rescue struggling A&E departments following a lack of action from the Government. The measures included immediate support for GPs to offer appointments this winter.
Labour has also pledged to invest £100 million in GP surgeries - saved by scrapping David Cameron's NHS market rules that waste millions on lawyers fees and contract tendering - to guarantee appointments within 48 hours or on the same day for those who need it.
Jamie Reed MP, Labour's Shadow Health Minister and MP for Copeland, said:
"David Cameron has made it harder for people to get a GP appointment and it’s left people turning to overstretched A&E departments.
“Patients are phoning the surgery day after day only to be disappointed. It’s like getting sought-after concert tickets, sitting for hours early morning with the phone on redial. But sadly, too many people are forced to give up and go to A&E.
“David Cameron caused this A&E crisis and his complacency is now a danger to patients. Labour has committed to investing an extra £2.5 billion each year – over and above the Tories – to recruit 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 nurses. We will scrap the Government’s NHS market and invest the savings in helping people to get a GP appointment within 48 hours."
Louise Baldock, Labour’s candidate for Stockton South said:
“The problems facing our A&Es are of the government’s making. Their top-down and unnecessary reorganisation has placed huge strain on GP practices and their short-sighted decision to close the NHS Direct has added to this.
"Within days of the last election, David Cameron scrapped Labour's GP appointments guarantee and now thousands of people across the region feel they are left with no option but to go to A&E. In Ingleby Barwick, where I live, people are waiting up to three weeks to see a GP.
“Labour are making the right move introducing a guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours. This will improve NHS services and take the pressure off A&E.”