What a corker! The Pulse awards for 2016
Pulse’s tongue-in-cheek awards celebrate the great and the not-so-good in general practice over the past 12 months
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WINNER The GPC went from Ché Guevara to Neville Chamberlain in a matter of six months. After a clear mandate to ballot the profession on submitting undated mass resignations, it demurred in August after claiming to have won commitments from NHS England. But fear not – if these promises aren’t kept, the GPC has a load of strongly worded letters in its arsenal.
RUNNER-UP A clean sweep for the BMA, with the junior doctors committee’s strategy for opposing the imposition of a new contract having more twists than a US presidential race. First they rejected the contract, then they agreed a better version with the Government… only for the membership to reject it. The JDC then agreed a series of strikes to oppose the subsequent contract imposition… only to cancel them. Stay tuned for the next instalment.
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WINNER Capita – a worthy winner indeed. Its provision of primary care support services has been (using the politest word we can find) shambolic. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Patient records have gone missing, and GPs have been left off the performers list while violent patients have been left on practice lists. And next year, Capita will take over cancer screening and GP list cleansing. What fun.
RUNNER-UP NHS England’s first award, for its efforts to support vulnerable practices. A year and a half after a £10m fund was announced to help practices on the brink of closure, Pulse found barely any had reached the intended recipients. Meanwhile, practices continue to close left, right and centre. Poor.
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WINNER The RCGP, which briefly doubled as the NHS England PR department following the publication of the GP Forward View in April. Then chair Dr Maureen Baker called it the ‘most significant piece of news for our profession since the 1960s’, and slapped the college badge on the document. Not all GPs were quite so enamoured; one called it a ‘sticking plaster on an exsanguinating patient’, and another ‘far too little, too late’.
RUNNER-UP Theresa May, for calling health secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘one of the most passionate advocates for patients and for the doctors, nurses and others who work in our health service that I have ever known’. This, in true The Thick of It style, came after rumours she had asked almost every other Conservative MP if they wanted his position. But the NHS badge is back on Mr Hunt’s lapel and, let’s be honest, he can’t possibly make things any worse. Can he?
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WINNER The Brexit campaigners for withdrawing their pledge to spend the £350m ‘the EU takes every week’ on the NHS – mere hours after the vote was won. The Brexiters might have got away with had it not been for the pesky gigantic coach emblazoned with the pledge travelling the UK.
RUNNER-UP NHS England, once again, for its rollercoaster attitude to small practices. At first, it reacted to practice closures as ‘something that happens’. Then, with chief executive Simon Stevens seemingly waking up to the importance of general practice, it stated ‘if general practice fails, the NHS fails’. But a leaked memo from a medical director at NHS England, obtained by Pulse and the BBC, said small practices should be allowed to ‘fail and wither’. Who knows what its stance will be this time next year – if there are any small practices left.
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WINNER Kathy Gyngell, editor of The Conservative Woman website and a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, went beyond the standard GP-bashing in her laughingly bad Telegraph column. She argued male GPs have been ‘corrupted by feminised work practices’ into taking up part-time work. How very dare they try to have some kind of life outside work? Man up, boys.
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WINNER Dr Henrietta Hughes, a GP who holds the role of national whistleblower guardian, for her suggestion that GPs need to cuddle more. Dr Hughes said GPs should ‘think about that scene in Love Actually where everybody is meeting at the airport’, while their ‘low-level grumpiness’ could harm patients by contributing to a ‘toxic environment’. We could all do with a cuddle after reading that.
RUNNER-UP Nesta, which is upholding the proud tradition of think-tanks in this category. It suggested the bins of elderly patients could be fitted with sensors prompting their GP to check up on their wellbeing if they fail to put out their recycling. It stopped short of suggesting GPs should just empty the bins themselves to prevent potential falls. Maybe we shouldn’t be putting ideas in their heads…
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WINNER Good old NHS England, for the pharmacy flu scheme. Allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines caused an at-times bitter row between practices and pharmacies, introducing competition where none was needed. Flu vaccination rates in at-risk groups fell anyway, and pharmacists are now facing unprecedented cuts to their core funding. Good work all round.
RUNNER-UP The RCGP for its wellbeing boxes, designed to cheer up the profession with ‘gratitude journals’ chocolate coins and ‘mindfulness’ colouring books. It has pledged to keep handing them out at some events, despite a less-than-enthusiastic reception.
The ups and downs of 2016
- Dr Maureen Baker–You may not agree with everything she says, but the GP Forward View included pretty much all her demands for general practice.
- Private GPs– A number of new online services have sprung up over the past year, taking advantage of longer GP waiting times, including an ‘Uber-style’ app that matches patients to private GPs.
- GP trainee numbers– Ok, it is just a few hundred more than last year, but there’s an upward curve for the first time since 2013.
- NHS email– A staff member started what may be the world’s largest email conversation by pressing ‘reply all’ to every NHS email address holder in the UK – just shy of 840,000 people – causing untold havoc and wasted effort. Turns out it’s not always ‘good to talk’.
- Seven-day access– NHS England has watered down the policy so no areas need offer 8am-8pm access on Sundays, after pilots showed little demand.
- Locum GPs– Practices will need to report paying locums more than £80 an hour. Locums fear rates may fall.
Anyone we have missed? Do let us know below