Health

Jeremy Hunt took children to A&E rather than wait for GP

Jeremy Hunt Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Hunt said he "didn't want to wait"

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of contradicting NHS advice after admitting that he took his children to A&E at the weekend rather than waiting to see a GP.

During health questions in the House of Commons, Mr Hunt said he "didn't want to wait".

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said Mr Hunt had been "irresponsible".

The Conservatives have offered seven day per week access to GPs should they win the general election.

During a health debate in parliament on Tuesday, Conservative MP Mr Hunt said: "I took my own children to an A&E department at the weekend precisely because I did not want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP.

"We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency, and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E departments."

'Problematic'

Mr Burnham later wrote to Mr Hunt claiming it was "highly problematic" for Mr Hunt to suggest it is acceptable for people to "bypass GPs and go straight to A&E".

"While I sympathise with the situation in which you found yourself, and have no wish to inquire into your family circumstances, it is your statement that needs to be challenged.

"It appears to be at odds with long-standing advice to the public and, in advance of a potentially difficult winter in the NHS, could add pressure to already overstretched A&E services."

Mr Burnham went on: "Your statement in the House implies that it is acceptable for the public to use A&E on an on-demand basis or as a substitute for GP services.

"You will be aware that this is in contradiction with the official advice on NHS Choices."

If the situation is not life-threatening, the NHS advises people to call NHS 111. People with less severe injuries should visit minor injuries units and walk-in centres, the NHS says.

Mr Hunt and Mr Burnham later continued the debate on Twitter.

"If parents have an unwell child needing medical attention, A&E provides a trusted service," Mr Hunt said.

Mr Burnham responded: "If all 'unwell' people went to A&E, #NHS would collapse. Surprised you continue to contradict official advice. Irresponsible."

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said that Mr Hunt had been "describing a challenge that I think many people up and down the country will recognise in terms of access to GPs."

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