My predictions for GPs in 2018
I know this column is a hostage to fortune and by June I will have to pretend not to have written it. Luckily I am not a proud man, so here goes.
GPs will be forced to open their appointment books to NHS 111 (odds 4/5)
The health service is obsessed with improving the state of urgent care (with good reason considering what is happening at the moment) and GP practices are unlikely to escape having to open in-hours appointments up to direct booking by NHS 111. CCGs already have a target of 5% of calls, but expect some new money to sweeten the deal in the next GP contract and for uptake of appointments to vary hugely – until patients figure out it is the best shortcut around the usual two-week wait.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will survive yet another reshuffle (odds 30/100)
I may be (very shortly) proved wrong on this one as various reshuffle rumours are swirling, but I would put my money on Jeremy Hunt remaining as health secretary. The PM is likely to want to keep Mr Hunt's leadership ambitions in check and sacking him is not really an option, particularly as he is a recent convert to the Leave cause. No other minister has his experience in the Department of Health or is likely to want to take on the challenging NHS brief at the moment, so I expect him to stay exactly where he is.
The RCGP will dissociate itself from the GP Forward View (odds 5/1)
Don’t expect Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard to preside over a bonfire of Forward Views in Euston Square, but there will be a toughening of the language as the college reviews progress this year. The tone could harden further if figures continue to show significant falls in UK GP numbers.
Scottish GPs will vote through their new contract (odds 1/3)
It won’t be a complete shoo-in for the BMA, but I predict GPs will vote for a new contract, which takes them on a completely different road from their colleagues in the rest of the UK. I predict a margin of 65:35, with Highland and rural GPs likely to vote against a contract that they suspect – with some justification – is not designed with them in mind. I would also put money on Wales following the Scots’ part-nationalisation of general practice.
Babylon Health will be granted the first nationwide GP contract (odds 10/1)
Last year’s rollout of its ‘GP at Hand’ online GP service in London was greeted with dismay by some after it was revealed the NHS had agreed it was ‘less suitable’ for certain patients. But recruitment to its online GP practice is going pretty well and I predict that at some point it will bid to be licensed to register patients across the country. The private company has had millions from Google and raised $60m in funding last year, so it’s poised to go very big indeed in 2018.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens will resign (even-stevens)
The impossible job of running the health service is obviously taking a toll on Mr Stevens and I predict he’ll throw in the towel this year. In 2017, he asked for £4bn from the chancellor but was fobbed off with less than half that. Then, reportedly, he was told he was ‘personally responsible’ for ensuring there is no NHS crisis this winter. I think he’ll stick it out until the summer, but expect an awkward announcement before Parliament breaks for the holidays.
A politician will suggest GPs are ‘best placed’ to do something ridiculous (not accepting bets)
Last year saw former Labour leader Harriet Harman say GPs should assess all over-75s’ fitness to drive. Expect similar in 2018.
Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse. You can follow him on Twitter @nigelpraities