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Oh, what a crazy year

Take a deep breath and relax – 2007 is nearly over. Even by the breakneck standards of general practice, this was a high-speed, head-spinning year, with each week bringing a new policy review, Government directive or lurid newspaper headline.

Take a deep breath and relax – 2007 is nearly over. Even by the breakneck standards of general practice, this was a high-speed, head-spinning year, with each week bringing a new policy review, Government directive or lurid newspaper headline.

We coined a few handy new phrases – polyclinic and anti-GP spin being two that leap to mind – and a new national obsession was born, in the apparent need to endlessly castigate GPs over their working hours.

Ministers wasted no time in getting their PR machine rolling against the profession, with January bringing mutterings about ‘greedy GPs', followed by one of Mrs Hewitt's fondly remembered interventions, in which she blamed GPs for failing to invest in their practices. The pay freeze duly came, and GPs braced themselves for a fall in income.

Fantasy becomes possibility

July brought a new regime at the top of Government, but the tune didn't so much change as rise in pitch. Gordon Brown put improving access to GPs at the top of his list, and the drive on access has been a familiar theme ever since, with the solution often seen as coming from the private sector.

Which brings us to the third of the year's big themes – the relentless drive to move private firms into every corner of the NHS. Even a year ago, the idea of a series of private GP franchises would have been dismissed as nothing more than one of Tony Blair's wilder fantasies. Now in parts of the country it appears a real possibility.

It's been quite a ride, 2007. Here's hoping for a quieter 2008.

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