Jeremy Hunt yesterday gave a honest and detailed account of the state of the NHS and its response to winter demand. He told us just how big the increase in demand for care and treatment has been. There are 9m more visits to A and E than in 2000; He reminded us that there are 340,000 more people over 80 than in 2010, the age group needing most NHS care. He explained how more and more people go to A and E at the hospital, when quite often they do not need hospital treatment. Around one third of those who attend A and E do not need to be there but could be dealt with by a GP or other local health professional. Despite the large increase in demand, most hospitals and trusts are coping a little better than last year. A few Trusts are performing very badly, have poor records on keeping people waiting and are being placed into special measures to improve them.
The NHS has a target of no-one waiting more than four hours at A and E. Clearly if on admission the person needs urgent treatment, that is what they should get without waiting 4 hours. The NHS recruited 1600 extra doctors and 3000 more nurses this year, to help cope. Since 2010 there has been an increase of 11,400 doctors and 11,200 nurses overall. The NHS also commissioned more GP consultations for the holiday period to try to reduce the pressures on A and E. Over Christmas and over New Year 150,000 medical staff were on duty in hospitals to deal with all the cases.
Clearly we need to continue to expand the NHS to deal with extra demand. We also need to help users of the NHS understand how it is organised and how it is best to use it. All UK citizens should be registered with a GP, and should normally use the GP as the first point of call for diagnosis and possible treatment. The GP should be the gatekeeper to the hospital system. Only where someone has a bad accident or a serious looking medical condition happens suddenly should they seek direct access to the hospital via A and E. We offer free emergency provision to anyone in our country.
New migrants to the UK should seek doctor registration for the free NHS as soon as they have legally settled here. Anyone not qualifying for free treatment should be informed of their need to hold insurance or to be ready to pay for non emergency treatment should they need any whilst staying in the UK.