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Roll up! Roll up! Here are Pulse's end-of-year awards

Pulse names the stars of the 2015 pantomime, which left general practice walking the tightrope

Review of the year header 580px

This year will be remembered by GPs given to gallows humour for its macabre, yet strangely comedic course of events.

From watching Jeremy Hunt smear lipstick over his pig of a ‘new deal’ to the clownish slapstick of NICE justifying its latest whacky clinical guideline, the whole 12 months often felt like the profession was strapped to the wheel of death in a sadistic circus show.

May’s election had more than a touch of the surreal, with Labour and Conservatives outbidding each other for the number of new GPs they would conjure up from thin air. The BMA ran around like a desperate performing dog, trying different tricks to get ministers to listen, and the RCGP staged verbal acrobatics, declaring it was the ‘best time in a generation to become a GP’.

Meanwhile, hard-pressed GP practices teetered on the tightrope, wondering how much longer they could hold out. 

Pulse has chosen some of the more deserving winners for our annual honours list, please let us know any alternative suggestions in the comments section below.

Malcolm Tucker Omnishambles of the Year Award

Winner: Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt illustration 330x330

Jeremy Hunt illustration 330x330

It was one of the most anticipated announcements about general practice in years. The health secretary announced his ‘new deal’ for GPs to tackle burnout and ease the pressures on practices in June. It turned out to do nothing of the sort. There was virtually nothing ‘new’ in it and even the supposedly extra £10m for struggling practices was recycled money. The only positive factor was that it gave Pulse an excuse to dress Mr Hunt up as Del Boy and put him on the cover.

Runner-up: NICE

What can we say, it’s been quite a year for NICE. And not in a good way. It’s been forced to redraft its diabetes guideline after experts called it ‘bonkers’, ditch plans to place the 10% risk threshold for statins in the QOF and delay its oeuvre on asthma diagnosis after GPs protested it was unworkable. Pulse encapsulated the whole sorry episode by making an ass of the institute’s guidance. How the mighty have fallen.


Lance Armstrong Mea Culpa of the Year Award

Winner: Professor Steve Field

Professor Steve Field 300x300

Professor Steve Field 300x300

It was a long time coming. Four months after publishing his ‘intelligent monitoring’ scores for GP practices – and branding scores of practices ‘risky’ using dodgy data – the CQC chief inspector finally said ‘sorry’ in a letter to GPs in March. ‘What we published wasn’t right regarding the use of language around risk. We apologise,’ he said. Better late than never.

Runner-up: GPs

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed at his party’s conference that GPs were systematically underfunded as a ‘penance’ for the 2004 GP contract, causing many to remind him that contract was needed to correct years of underfunding by a previous Tory administration. After year-on-year pay cuts, the profession has more than paid its dues, Mr Hunt.


Richard Dawkins Blind Faith Award

Winners: RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker/Health Education England

Maureen Baker 300x300

Maureen Baker 300x300

The RCGP’s YouTube video to promote becoming a GP aired to general disbelief within the profession. It featured Dr Baker herself, surrounded by enthusiastic young GPs in a south London health centre, declaring that now was ‘the best time in a generation to become a GP’. And if that was not surreal enough, Health Education England then followed it up a few months later with a campaign telling would-be GPs how great it is to spend time filling out forms that allow patients to skydive. You couldn’t make it up.

 Runner-up: David Cameron

It is a promise he may come to regret, but in the heat of the election campaign, the Prime Minister promised he would find 5,000 extra GPs by 2020. It was a valiant pledge indeed, defying all the evidence of unfilled GP training places, increasing numbers of doctors applying to go abroad and many considering early retirement. This figure has since become a ‘maximum’.


With Friends Like These Award

Winner: Pharmacists

pharmacist practice pharmacy 1  PPL

pharmacist practice pharmacy 1 PPL

Getting patients to have their flu jab is hard enough without someone going around and telling those who’d booked an appointment to cancel it. But Pulse learned earlier this year that some pharmacists were doing just that, after they were allowed by NHS England to administer flu vaccines themselves. Chemists then turned around and claimed they only wanted to ‘help out’ overworked GPs. Hmm – so much for solidarity, comrades.

Runner-up: The BMJ

You could forgive GPs for wondering if this esteemed journal lost its purpose in 2015. First, it naïvely published evidence that patients were more likely to die at the weekend, without a clear explanation of why, which was inevitably used by Jeremy Hunt (albeit disingenuously) to justify his seven-day working drive. Then, last month, it carried out a joint investigation with The Times headlined: ‘GPs award £2.4bn deals to their own companies’. Whose side are they on?


Donald Trump Special Relationship Award

Winner: NHS Leicester City CCG

US healthcare flag

US healthcare flag

CCG bosses spent £600k to bring over 10 US-trained physician associates to work in the city’s general practices. And this approach was then copied nationally, with the Department of Health announcing a massive programme to import 200 US physician associates to work in the NHS this year, on whacking great salaries of £50k (annoying many similarly paid salaried GPs in the process). Y’all gonna lurve the NHS. 

Runner-up: NHS Vale of York CCG

GPs from about 30 surgeries issued a statement of no confidence in senior managers at NHS Vale of York CCG, expressing anger after its chief clinical officer flew to Alaska and Seattle in a bid to learn about ‘alternative models of care’. The US trip was all the more galling as the CCG was suffering budgetary problems after a ‘£1.4m forecast outturn’.



Alan Sugar Award for Diplomacy

Winner: Dr Fay Wilson

LMC Conference Fay Wilson  Paul Stuart

LMC Conference Fay Wilson Paul Stuart

The Birmingham GP compared NHS 111 to Communism at the LMCs Conference in London: ‘Great idea, disappointing in practice,’ she quipped.

Runner-up: Dr Paul Cundy

The GPC member brandished a roll of toilet paper bearing the CQC’s name on every sheet at the same conference. Understandable, perhaps, after the regulator’s henchmen made 41 mistakes in his practice’s draft inspection report.

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