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At the heart of general practice since 1960

A military solution to the problems of general practice

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According to General Eisenhower, 'the best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned; when you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy'. He might have added that when the normally conservative GMC go out of their way to specifically mention morale in their annual report, you can be sure it’s closer to rock bottom than Dwayne Johnson’s Y-fronts.

I wonder what the General would make of the esprit de corps of the medical workforce in 2016? The signs are not good: recruitment is falling year on year, and desertion becoming so commonplace that they’ve just introduced stiff punishments for those attempting to leave. With workload skyrocketing and real terms income plummeting, it’s hardly surprising. I don’t keep a gratitude journal, but if I did, it’d be emptier than Julian Assange’s Pokedex.

Thankfully, there’s a military-style solution to our current mojo deficit: Jeremy Hunt 'wants to boost GP morale by awarding more gongs'. Scoff if you like, but he just might be on to something; after all, not only has Mr Hunt presided over the single greatest rise in NHS morale in living memory, but also that formidable achievement was directly attributable to insignia placement.

I’m sensing some disbelief here, but cast your minds back. It was the morning of the last reshuffle, and Jezza was seen walking up to 10 Downing Street, wearing neither his customary smirk nor his familiar NHS badge. Now do you remember that feeling? Just seeing his lapel finally free of its trademark blue-and-white Horcrux was like witnessing the tentative debut steps of your firstborn whilst simultaneously hearing your winning lottery numbers read out, in an Orgasmatron.

Sadly, after Theresa May had scrabbled to no avail through a rolodex marked 'Anyone, Literally Anyone Else Willing To Be Health Secretary', the badge and the smirk were firmly back in place, and the resultant endorphin nosedive felt like having your childhood sweetheart interrupt your wedding vows to tell you they’re eloping with your best mate, and as you stare uncomprehendingly into their cruel black eyes you suddenly notice on the patina of their unrepentant tears the reflection of a mushroom cloud blossoming behind you. During Brexit.  

Bad times perhaps, but testament to the emotional power that the presence or absence of a bit of metal on a shirtfront can wield. In the words of Field Marshall Slim: 'Nothing is so good for the morale of the troops as occasionally to see a dead general', that's going a bit far, but I’ll settle for a missing NHS badge.

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Leadership is of the spirit, compounded of personality and vision.Also by Bill Slim - probably the finest General of WW2 and as true today as then - Have we become the equivalent of the Forgotten Army? Certainly feels like it!!

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  • Indeed. Bill Slim was probably one of the finest generals the British Army had in the 20th Century. A soldier's soldier.

    Hunt is more like Haig. Once more over the top lads, just asking us to make another gargantuan effort to move his drinks cabinet 6 inches closer to Berlin.

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  • I would like to award Jeremy the S.H.P.O.S. accolade. I first saw it awarded to Mr Hunt's friend Dan Hannan and when I discovered what it stood for I felt it should be held as a joint honour.

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  • If I might just say, I think we may be being unfair to Field-Marshall Haig (who ended up with a lot of criticism in the latter half of the twentieth century years from revisionist historians, which I suspect was unfair.) I understand that Haig felt the losses of his men very deeply, but as far as I am aware, had no easy answers to the carnage (no-one had - not until we invented tanks) - and Haig had little choice but to prosecute the war that the politicians required him to do.
    Haig was offered a peerage soon after the war ended, but refused point blank to accept it until suitable arrangements had been made to care for those of his men who had been severely wounded/permanently incapacitated.

    Yes, I agree, some of the other generals weren't that good, but from what I've read, I don't think Haig falls into this category, unless one believes the revisionist historians - which I suspect the military historians don't.

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  • It is difficult to understand why people on this thread make it so personal when it comes to the Health Secretary.
    1. He is spokesman for a cabinet polcy
    2. If he went he would be replaced in a flash by 1 of 330+ other Tory MPs with exactly the same policies
    3. No health secretary in the last 30 years has held a special torch for GPs
    4. In other words he has no reason to be a leader to GPs....we need to look at our own leaders shortcomings

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  • It is true what Mr Hunt said.
    Look at the figures, a 50% reduction in funding to GPs in 11 years and not a cheep from our leader.
    Guess what, he gas got a medal!!

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  • Sadly unlike Bill Slim, we have never had a "medics Health minister" - probably too much to hope for - just go back to lobbing prescriptions over the tennis courts of our own little Kohima! Some how the Kohima epitaph is beginning to feel more & more applicable to general practice .... for your tomorrows we gave our today!

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  • Thank you 8.33pm, You are spot on.
    Labour "invested" in the NHS by putting it on the credit card of PFI.
    The conservatives have got no spare cash after inheriting the deficit , and have made some hefty cuts in other parts of government spending.
    As an NHS worker, more money is good.
    As a taxpayer, I pay plenty thanks.
    The balance between the tax and spend is democracy. I would prefer first past the post though!
    Of course GP is really in dire straits, but its hard to explain that to ordinary punters, alongside the £100,000 salary.

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  • Outstanding article. If anyone needs me I'll be on the grassy knoll.

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  • 'Of course GP is really in dire straits, but its hard to explain that to ordinary punters, alongside the £100,000 salary.'

    As a GP you will know that the nominal £100,000 is not a salary but profits from a business which requires you to spend on staff, premises [which you are likely to have bought with a mortgage] and many other expenses before you were left with that.
    And then you start spending your profits on all the other essential expenditure required of a partner such as defence subs.
    What is left as your disposable income is, I am afraid, far short of a professional income.

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