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CAMHS won't see you now

Can GPs really learn anything from banks?

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It looks like our Jeremy Hunt has come back from his holiday full of beans and bursting with new ideas. His latest is that we should model general practice on the banks.

I don’t think there’s very much of our work we’ll be handing over to patients

He doesn’t mean drive the country to the brink of bankruptcy plunge us into deep recession and ask the taxpayer to bail it all out, no, he thinks we could improve our efficiency by getting patients to do more of our work for us.

He claims that banks have become more efficient and profitable over the last decade by getting us to do their job for them - internet banking was the example he used. You log on and do the work that previously would have been done by a bank clerk.

Well that sounds great for banks and you could forgive most lay people for being naïve enough to directly compare commercial banking with a state run health service. Any lay person that is, apart from a health secretary.

I’m not sure where we could even begin handing over some of our work to patients. A significant number still don’t understand the repeat prescription system, despite the fact it’s been in place for a couple of decades. As for our automatic check in screen that requires them to confirm their date of birth, well frankly you’d be as well asking some of them to critically appraise the mathematics behind the Higgs boson.

Asking patients to complete their personal details on referral forms is usually met with a blank stare and ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses’ (often a euphemism for ‘I don’t read and write very well’).

I guess we could have a DIY blood pressure machine in the waiting room if it wasn’t for the fact toddlers would be using it to strangle each other before the day was out.

DIY rectal examinations in the comfort of your own home? Well I could talk them through it on the phone while I simultaneously tick off QOF boxes on the computer, but it might all get a bit messy.

No I don’t think there’s very much of our work we’ll be handing over to patients to do for us in the near future.

There may be something in Mr Hunt’s idea though. Perhaps there are some banking practices we could mimic: only talking to our patients through bullet proof glass, charging them £25 for every letter we send them and closing up shop at five o’clock for example, any takers?

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

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Readers' comments (8)

  • I can't work out whether Hunt is a vindictive, cruel genius or simply a moron with a child-like understanding of the NHS.
    I am still left a floating voter on the subject..........

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  • Most likely both minus the genius bit.

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  • My first day as a student someone had carved on the desk in front of me 2 lines
    "Do not adjust your mind
    There is a fault in reality "
    My 40yrs working in the NHS have proved those words to be right on a regular basis

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  • Actually, there is at least one thing we can learn from the banks.

    In 2008 UK banks were rescued with cash bailouts because they were "too big to fail".

    This is the best argument I can see in favour of large-scale practices.

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  • Since the Bankers came cap in hand to HM Government in 2007 asking for taxpayer's funding because of having large bad debt deficits in their accounts after having internationally lent their investors' monies to people with no prospect of repayment, I don't see how following any lesson they gave would have any merit at all. People blame the Labour Government when it was in power for the public deficit but, if they had not bailed out the Banks, we would all have lost our current and deposit accounts and no politician would survive having done that; and the poor GPs would have been flooded with bank customers in grave states of anxiety wanting pharmacological relief!

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  • Very good article and the first 2 comments- priceless!

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  • Mr Hunt simply reflects the trend towards a post-factual world increasingly being run by fantasists. This can be seen by the outrageous comments of people like Trump in the US or closer to home, Boris and his fellow Brexiteers who dismiss professional or expert opinion (and now, supression of any criticism by their supporters like Dacre's Mail and the Express). Interesting times ahead if this trend persists!

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  • I think perhaps the wholesale closure of "branches" and the dumbing down of responsibility to less able/experienced staff is precisely where he is going. Also, like the banks, couch this all in fluffy terms like "service improvement" and you are on a winner. The public were stupid enough to fall for it with the banks and will do so again. (oh, did I say, i used to be a bank manager back in the good old days)

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