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PM David Cameron: Elderly put pressure on A&E units

By Lindsay Watling

The large number of elderly people turning up at A&E rather than going to their GP is contributing significantly to the "very great pressures" on the NHS, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister made the comments in Manchester, where he is on a two-day tour of the north west with Chancellor George Osborne.

He said: "We do see very great pressures on the NHS because of the number of people going to A&E.

"One figure that's particularly striking is that there are over a million more over-65s going to A&E this year than there were four years ago, so an ageing population, greater numbers of frail, elderly.

"I think the ease of going to hospital compared with not always having such clarity about what exists in the primary care sector - I think all of these are factors."

He also emphasised the need to "build up our primary care system to make it easier for people to access their GP".

The Tory leader said the longer-term plan was "about redesigning and making even better the front door to the NHS so that frail, elderly people don't feel the need to go to A&E because they can be treated better at home or in the community or at their GP."

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said accident and emergency departments were under "considerable pressure" this winter north of the border.

Winter bugs which affect both patients and staff, festive GP closures and long-term difficulties dealing with an ageing population make it a busy period for A&E staff, Ms Sturgeon said.

Her comments came after more medical procedures were postponed yesterday as hospitals across Scotland experienced high levels of demand over the weekend and into the working week.

Speaking on a visit to Dundee's Ninewells Hospital, Ms Sturgeon said: "This is always the busiest time of year for our accident and emergency departments.

"During the winter you also see factors like norovirus, respiratory illness, and sometimes these illnesses affect NHS staff as well as members of the public, so it hits NHS staffing."

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