The problem is that a small but growing proportion of people believe that the out-of-hours emergency service should be available not only for the seriously and suddenly ill but also for the routinely ill. It is not clear that this trend can be reversed.
If, as a community, we accept the growing expectation that GPs are obliged to attend to all who request our presence at night, our working conditions must be ameliorated to account for this, in a way which sensibly preserves our quality of life.
This is where the Government has failed GPs. By reducing the remuneration for each call and replacing it partly by a lump sum, ministers have divorced themselves from the increasing tide of demand. This leaves GPs isolated. No one else is interested in preserving a sensible emergency service. No one is concerned whether we can cope, which we cannot.
The issue is not about money. The issue is about demand. The Government is desperately trying to duck its responsibility to reconcile demand and provision.
Dr Maurice Conlon