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At the heart of general practice since 1960

There's no way GPs would take back out-of-hours work

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‘Something is squeezing my skull,’ sang Steven Patrick Morrissey on his, let’s face it, rather disappointing last album. But I think I know what that something is, now, because I’m suffering the same sort of tension headaches I imagine prompted the ex-Smiths’ frontman to pen that song. It’s a vice, and the man turning the screw is Jeremy Hunt.

His bewildering and crushing array of criticisms, constraints and contractual impositions are, literally, doing my head in. But now you can add insomnia to cephalgia, too. Because I can’t shake this little sleep-destroying thought sequence out of my head: JH demonstrates he can run roughshod over our contract and make us work much harder to earn the same; JH blames nation’s out-of-hours ills on us and the ‘disastrous’ 2004 contract; JH knows that, to the average newspaper reader, we’re the anti-Christ; JH takes big chunk of money away from contract and waves it in our faces; JH makes us re-earn it by taking back OOH personally; JH very popular with public for making lazy overpaid GPs work harder and for making it less likely to get killed out of hours; JH for PM.

You can just about read it between the lines of every utterance, can’t you? There’s one problem, though. I think he’s underestimated us.

Yes, we embarrassed ourselves with the day of inaction protesting about our pensions. But this issue, I think, would really unite all GPs, even those with anaphylactic reactions to militancy. If he actually goes for the nuclear OOH option, then I genuinely think GPs might strike.

This one would, for sure. Because Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now - but taking phonecalls again for threadworms at 3am would definitely push me over the edge.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.

Readers' comments (20)

  • We won't revolt-Hunt knows this-we don't have the bottle-we will just go quietly. But he does have a "plan" for us, a "final solution" if you will. To crush the life out of us and to herd us into a nasty future and lock the doors. He has already started with phase one..........blaming our small societal group for society's ills and telling society that we are greedy and cunning and action must be taken. This typically swings into Phase two...attacks on our working conditions and tearing up previous legal agreements. Can we complain??The GMC won't even allow us to be "anonymous" anymore-I am sure that soon we will have to start wearing some kind of cyber identity badge denoting that we are GPs for all and sundry to attack. But just wait for phase 3 !!

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  • David Bush

    One thing I don't quite get with this tactic is this..
    The 'Hunt' says GP's are idle, uncaring and useless, but incidentally he's asked us to run the NHS and steer it out of its current terminal dive.
    Can't the public see the holes in this rhetoric?

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  • @Anonymous, 14 May 2013 2:19pm

    "...blaming our small societal group for society's ills and telling society that we are greedy and cunning and action must be taken."

    Hmm . . . As a member of the chronically sick and disabled community (and be thankful you're not - it might make that final solution a lot more real), I could have sworn that we were the official hate figures, blamed for the ills of society.

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  • j hunt is looking more like a scared rabbit than a rotweiller these days but dont underestimate how much the public supports his take on Times (not daily mail) today.£190+ being paid for locums doing ooh for Harmoni.gross or what!

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  • Mr Graves.....I sympathise with your plight....and yes I do have medical problems. People stereotype Doctors as all lucky, selfish people devoid of health problems themselves with no empathy....we'll that's the Daily Mail for you. People with disabilities are not treated well by society....but that is not of my making or my personal fault.....I am not God, just a person trying to do my bit to make people's lives better.

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  • Time we went on the offensive. MPs (+journalists) & GPs: Compare & contrast. Whom do the public trust?

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  • You people need to live in the real world. The public doesn't want GPs to do OOH personally, but they do want a joined up service and expect you the GPs to take responsibility for the quality of OOH service. Trust me, when you call an OOH GP 9 times out of 10 what you get is a disinterested, ill-informed low-grade individual with no knowledge of the patient's medical background. The public are not stupid they vote with their feet and go straight to A&E.

    I rang one of our local surgeries yesterday at 15:30 and got an answerphone message saying "the surgery is now closed, if you are bleeding or unconscious call 999 othrewise call 111". Brilliant.

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  • If the public want a good quality service they should stop being babies and understand that a good service needs paying for (certainly more than the £1/hr labour was offering. The public ARE stupid exactly BECAUSE they vote with their feet and go to A+E, where they are often seen by a committed but incredibly junior doctor who has little experience in managing primary care problems.

    Additionally, the reason that the service will fail is because OOH is now being used to see non-urgent issues purely as a matter of conveniece (eg I urgent need my verrucae looked at at 10pm). It was never intended or funded for this. Inappropriate demands and the gratification culture will destroy the NHS - this is not a problem for doctors as we'll still have work but the public will regret it.

    I'm not sure why you are conflating the issue of your practice shutting down for the half day. This could be for a whole number of reasons (including mandatory training such as child protection).

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  • Dr. Copperfield - I could not have said it better myself! I have seen this plan unfolding for some time.
    David Bush - the reason we have been firmly handed the poison chalice of commissioning is all part of this plan - when there is the inevitable excrement-fan interfacing in NHS funding, who will be to blame? Not Mr Hunt or anyone at the DoH! No, the people who brought down the NHS (suddenly retrospectively viewed through rose-tinted glasses) will be those fat, lazy, overpaid GPs that couldn't even be bothered to get out of bed to see your toothache at 3 a.m......

    Once again I will plug my e-petition to get rid of Hunt and at least get someone to listen at:

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  • What the public know: lazy GPs don't want to do anything more than office hours, and even then the appointment systems are a nightmare to deal with. Anything JH can do to make GPs available all hours will be great with them - and to The poster above who feels that a campaign to get public support to not do OOHs - you're dreaming.

    What we know: insatiable demand for healthcare with no filtering of real emergencies from the minor stuff that should be dealt with in hours. Also a consumerist approach to healthcare, with everything being available immediately. A change in the gender balance of GPs meaning that many more of us have child care commitments that did not exist in the old days. Both male and female GPs have chosen the career for work-life balance, and the increased number of salaried GPs are not going to be taking calls about threadworms at 3 a.m.

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From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder