Labour leader Ed Miliband has announced that a Labour Government would look to reintroduce the entitlement for patients to receive an appointment at a GP surgery within 48 hours of seeking one, and 24 hours if the patient is in “serious need”. Miliband promised to fund the pledge by removing the “unnecessary administration and legal fees” brought about by the recent NHS reforms to the NHS competition landscape, and ending some duplications in health quangos operations.
GP representatives, including RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker, have welcomed the extra investment that this move would bring, however have warned that mandating GP appointments within this timescale could restrict the freedom of GPs to schedule appointments beyond 48 hours for patients with long-term conditions.
Some studies have suggested a 5% increase in patients seeing their preferred GP could reduce emergency admissions by as many as 159,000 a year, saving £375 million. However,
Pete from PSI: With the leader Ed Miliband announcing this policy, as opposed to Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, it is clear that the Labour Party plans to make the NHS a key battleground at the next election. Over the past year, the party has talked alot about the possibility of making the NHS the “preferred provider” of NHS services, although it is unclear how this would work in practice.
It is likely that the Conservative Party will look to react to any attempts by Labour to make the NHS front and centre in the election campaign by highlighting Labour’s record in Wales, where it is responsible for the NHS, where waiting times have risen over recent years and there are concerns over rising mortality rates in some hospitals. The Government will also point to its reforms in the inspection and monitoring of care facilities, which it will claim is “cleaning up the mess” left by the previous Labour Government.