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Bad tidings we bring

Phil's seasonal goodwill has been dampened by the Scrooges at his PCT slashing local PMS budgets

Phil's seasonal goodwill has been dampened by the Scrooges at his PCT slashing local PMS budgets

This is my last column of the year, and it would be nice to finish with a bit of festive cheer and seasonal goodwill, merry jokes and talk of home comforts and family values, but unfortunately it's just not an option this week.

Because this is, should you realise it yet or not, the worst week for general practice in a very long time.

Our friends and colleagues in Northumberland are under the harrow. They are not exceptional or different, they are not even the first (that honour goes to our colleagues in Suffolk).

It might be suggested that GPs in Northumberland have been having it large for a very long time, but I'm not one of those people who would suggest that living in a gorgeous under populated picturesque national park is any big deal.

I have no intention of advertising the place. We like to keep it quiet. Traffic jams are something we read about, but don't experience. So, for the purposes of this article, please regard it as a distant impoverished backwater, and not the vibrant historical cradle of the industrial revolution, the birthplace of the English monarchy and constitution, and the only place in England where you can expect to reach 70mph and maintain it for an hour while the Cheviots roll by through both windows.

You can't get a skinny latte or a copy of Face up here for love nor money, so don't bother visiting. Go to Chessington World Of Adventures or Alton Towers. You'll have much more fun.

Having said all that, our friends in the North have just been royally screwed, like those in Suffolk before them.

Those of them on PMS contracts have just had those contracts reviewed and ‘renegotiated', or perhaps I mean ‘imposed'. A friend of mine has been told that 16% has been removed from his global sum, and unless he dumps a doctor or some staff, the sum of £120,000 will be removed from the five partners' income. Other practice budgets have been slashed by as much as 24%. There is already talk of practices closing because they have suddenly become financially unviable.

What do you think might take their place? We might not have Starbucks but we do have Tesco.

Depression and despair is rife, morale is at zero.

I wonder how this will play out in the press. For six months we've been deluged by ‘fat cat' GP stories, orchestrated denigration and media criticism; our pay rise three years ago has been portrayed as greed rather than a long-needed historical correction to the level of comparative professionals.

This has been followed by two, probably three, years of effective pay cuts and now by this brutal salary slashing to bring us back to well below our income of three years ago. All this despite the fact that we have fulfilled just about every extra demand placed upon us by the new contract and that patient care and chronic disease management can be statistically demonstrated as being superior in almost every respect.

We did what we were asked. Will the fat cat stories be followed by thin cat stories?

Northumberland is first, and you're next. PMS contracts are all up for negotiation, and Northumberland and Suffolk are the precedent. Then, after they‘ve screwed you, they will go for GMS practices like mine. You have to realise this: they‘re out to get us. Whether you do anything about it is up to you.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas. God bless us, every one.


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