Letter: High cost of health

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The Independent Culture
Sir: A great deal of comment has appeared in your columns on the ailments affecting the NHS over the Christmas period. Some have suggested that GPs and GP co-operatives were responsible for increased admission rates to hospitals. Some even blamed patients for being "wimps".

Between Christmas Day and the end of New Year's Day 1997, our GP co-operative, which supports out-of-hours care in Northumberland and north Durham, handled 3,772 calls. During the same period last month, partly because of flu and a meningitis scare, the number was 8,492. Despite this increase in call volume, our hospital referral rate fell to 5.25 per cent and we managed, through having extra doctors and staff working, to sustain our normal high-quality response times.

We have an ageing population. Expectations are rising ahead of investment in healthcare; continued NHS modernisation and increased investment are essential or crises are inevitable.

Dr KEVIN McKENNA

Medical Director

Northern Doctors Urgent Care

Ashington, Northumberland

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