GPs must take more responsibility for older patients' care rather than relying on hospitals and care homes to pick up the flack.
This is the view of health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who believes that too often the elderly feel they have to seek support in hospital because they cannot get an out-of-hours appointment with their local doctor.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt said that cover is sparse at many surgeries that the staff in accident and emergency wards sometimes know the patients better than their own GP.
He called for ministers to negotiate new contracts for family doctors which would mean they are obligated to do more to ensure older people get the right treatments at the right time.
This would include keeping track of their progress even when they have been placed in hospitals and care homes.
"We need a much better way for vulnerable old people to journey through the NHS. They need someone from the service to be keeping tabs and championing them through the system all the time — and making sure they’re a name not a number, whether or not they are in hospital," he wrote.
"As a member of the public I would like that responsible person to be my GP."
Mr Hunt's article recalled a time when he visited a hospital and saw a lady with dementia. He feels that the A&E department was the worst place for her, but there was no reliable alternative.
He blamed the previous Labour government for creating this situation because it allowed GPs to negotiate contracts that meant they were able to get out of offering out-of-hours care services.
"Sadly the 2004 contract changes undermined the personal link between GPs and their patients, as well as imposing a whole range of bureaucratic burdens," he said.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, responded by saying that that the NHS is struggling because of budget cuts to social care and front-line jobs.
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