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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Can Barack Obama revive general practice?

Was Princess Diana murdered by MI5? Very very unlikely. Do bees cure cancer? Probably not. Are GPs to blame for MRSA/global warming/the end of the world as we know it? Only if you’re the Daily Mail.

Was Princess Diana murdered by MI5? Very very unlikely. Do bees cure cancer? Probably not. Are GPs to blame for MRSA/global warming/the end of the world as we know it? Only if you're the Daily Mail.

It's a golden rule of journalism that if the headline is a question, the answer is no.

And so it is with this blog's headline. Yes, Barack Obama will make history today when he is inaugurated as America's first black president. But his first order of business will not be to invite Gordon Brown to the White House for a fireside chat about the dangers of messing with the QOF.

Obama didn't even come close to making Pulse's top ten most influential outsiders likely to shape UK general practice in 2009.

So – a disclaimer. This blog won't be informed political comment. Instead, as GPs, along with the rest of the world turn their attention to Washington, it's a bit of out-there speculation. We live in a globalised, butterfly-effect world, interconnected in more ways than we can imagine. Is it really so far-fetched to believe that a change in the most powerful man in the world could have some small knock-on effect for GPs?

I won't pretend I know for sure what that knock-on effect might be, but here's three suggestions. I'm sure you have more.

1. Obama's healthcare plan Sure, there's little connection between the NHS and the very different system in the US. But Obama has put improving healthcare front and centre in his campaign, by pledging to reduce insurance premiums, for example, and in the current economic crisis, it's a strategy that paid electoral dividends. Brown and Cameron are watching closely – expect a few ideas and tactics to drift across the pond for the coming general election.

2. Left-wing politics. For all his inclusive speechifying, when it comes down to it, Obama may be one of the most left-wing presidents in the history of the US. Certainly since FDR. It's not always true that where America leads, Britain follows (and certainly not in healthcare). But ask yourself this. Would a David Cameron government be more or less likely to wholeheartedly embrace private sector alternatives to the NHS if the US had elected a staunch Republican, rather than a liberal Democrat?

3. Sorting the credit crunch. Top of Obama's in-tray, and the £64-plus billion question. Obama may or may not be able to work economic miracles, but for the world to recover, America needs to recover. And any successful US recovery plan will start in the Oval Office. Hence, its impact would without doubt be felt in practices across the UK.

This one could cut both ways – while economic recovery would be generally welcomed, and, for example, reducing surgery costs, it could also herald an increase in private sector interest in primary care.

So, can Barack Obama revive general practice? No, of course he can't. But general practice doesn't exist in a bubble, and if the world changes, then it changes too.

Barack Obama: Can he revive general practice as well as save the world? Barack Obama: Can he revive general practice as well as save the world? Recent posts

Will polyclinic decisions bear closer scrutiny? January 19
Our GP insider's evening at number 10 January 16
'The UK's most improved GPs' How is that exactly? January 14
So who will be running those polyclinics? January 14
Darzi and QOF reports will shape the coming months January 13
Love it or loathe it, the Summary Care Record is finally here January 12
Reheated NHS Choices plan repeats on ministers January 8
MPs to give their views on Darzi. What are yours? January 8
Crystal ball gazing for 2009 January 7
Behind the curtain: our new blog January 7

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