UK & World News
Miliband Vows Patients Will See GP Within 48 Hours
Ed Miliband has unveiled plans for a "GP guarantee" so patients can see a doctor within 48 hours if they want to and on the same day if they need to.
In a major speech in Manchester on the NHS, the Labour leader pledged an extra £100m for GP surgeries in England aimed at creating three million more appointments a year.
His vow came as Labour switched its campaigning for the local and European elections on to health.
A party election broadcast will show Mr Miliband working at Watford General Hospital.
Under Labour's plans, dismissed as "unfunded pie-in-the-sky" by the Tories, every NHS patient would have the right to consult a doctor or nurse the same day, with a face-to-face appointment in the surgery that day if they needed to be seen quickly.
Those who did not need to see a doctor or nurse immediately and whose problem could not be dealt with remotely would be guaranteed an appointment within 48 hours.
Patients would also be given a right to book non-urgent appointments with the GP of their choice more than 48 hours in advance.
"This will be better for patients, because they have better access to their GP surgery; better for the NHS, because it will save money currently spent in A&E; and better for Britain, because it is the kind of health service we need," Mr Miliband said.
He said a Labour government elected in 2015 would not be able to match the spending on health achieved under the previous administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
"We will have to do things in a new way to make our health service better, to save money where we can - and make sure that every single penny is well spent," he said.
Labour sources told Sky News the extra cash for GPs would come from easing the pressure on hospital A&E departments, abolishing the market framework introduced by the Coalition and reducing spending on consultants and senior managers.
Mr Miliband said it was a "scandal" that numbers of patients getting a GP appointment within 48 hours had fallen from 80% under Labour to just 40% now, while a quarter of people are now unable to get a GP appointment in the same week.
The Labour leader accused David Cameron of taking on new powers to close down health services, presiding over an increase in patients waiting four hours or more in A&E and shutting a quarter of NHS walk-in centres.
But a Conservative health spokesman denounced Mr Miliband's GP pledge, declaring: "This is an unfunded pie-in-the-sky policy that Labour can't pay for and doctors can't deliver. More unfunded spending would mean more borrowing and more taxes to pay for it. It's the same old Labour.
"The last Labour government vandalised the relationship between GPs and their patients by introducing tick-box targets and scrapping family doctors, something we are now putting right."
Dr Maureen Baker, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "There is a growing crisis in waiting times to see a GP across the country, and it is clear that this will become a key issue at the next election.
"GPs want to provide better access for their patients, but are being prevented from cutting waiting times because of the funding black hole in general practice.
"Ed Miliband's announcement that more money should be channelled into general practice is therefore extremely welcome."