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We should hide more stuff in sheds

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Something unusual happened this week. Jeremy Hunt actually made good on one of his pledges. I sense your disbelief, gentle reader, but stay with me; April Fools’ Day is at least one more blog away. Back in June 2015, in the speech he called the 'GP New Deal' (for reasons unclear, since it was neither a deal, nor did it offer anything new) Mr Hunt said he would 'do something about the bureaucracy, paperwork and inappropriate workload'. Now at the time I assumed this was more of the standard 'jam tomorrow' flim-flam we’ve grown used to from the Department of Health, but how wrong I was; it turns out this week that the NHS has indeed dramatically shrunk the primary care stationery mountain, by intercepting half a million documents on their way towards GP in-trays and cunningly hiding them in a shed instead.

The House of Commons was scandalised, but I think they’ve been a bit short-sighted; it’s surely high time for this successful Hiding-Things-In-A-Shed approach to be rolled out across the whole health policy spectrum. Think about it: troublesome striking junior doctors? Simply hide ‘em in a shed! Patients lined up on trolleys in corridors? Shed!  Worst A&E figures since time began? GIMME AN S! GIMME AN H! GIMME AN E! OK you get the idea.

'Hey Pete, what about patient safety?' I hear you cry, but remember – these are letters from hospital we’re talking about. You know the kind of thing:

'Presenting Complaint: SCROTUM PAIN

Investigations and Treatment: IV FLUIDS/TROPONIN/D-DIMER/MRI HEAD

Diagnosis: OVARIAN CYST

Outcome: DIED IN DEPARTMENT/SELF DISCHARGE

Plan: GP FOLLOW UP'

Most of the time I’m more confused after reading than when I started. Let ‘em stay in the bloody shed I say.

What’s instructive to me is not the letters-in-a-shed thing itself, but the government response. Now I wouldn’t for one second want to suggest here that Jeremy Hunt’s stance on patient safety was mere political posturing repeatedly belied by his own actions; I kind of already did that last month, and you gotta keep your content fresh. But isn’t it odd that a man who persistently bashes the medical profession about our 'duty of candour' should respond to learning about Shedgate in March 2016 by keeping entirely schtum for four months before releasing a so-vague-it’s-virtually-impenetrable statement a third the length of this blog on the day before the parliamentary holidays, and then never mentioning it again until he was summoned to the Commons when the story broke a year later? No doubt he’ll now be keen to lay low for a while. Well, I know just the place…

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

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Readers' comments (4)

  • The Palace of Westminster,a shed where we hide some of the poorest excuses for human beings in the UK.Shame we cant lock it and keep them there!.

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  • Nice one! Can I have a shed of my own for all that backlog of paperwork to be done? I'm fed up with 'transparency' and 'candour'- it only gets me more work for less benefit. Perhaps I could also hide myself in the shed once in a while from all the extra phone calls and distractions that plague the day.

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  • Hmmm, who should we lock in the shed?
    -J Hunt (obvs)
    - any GP collaborators working with the CQC
    - the CQC
    - Capita
    - all Appraisers
    - all "no win no fee" solicitors
    - Medicines Management
    - anyone who "left my codeine on the bus" (again)
    - CAMHS (would anyone notice??)
    - teachers with internet printouts
    - sarcastic orthopaedic surgeons
    - GPs who think 7 day opening is a great idea
    - anyone demanding a home visit "cos it's my right"
    - anyone attending with a bad chest wearing 10 layers of clothing
    - anyone who answers a mobile mid consultation
    - anyone who expends 10 minutes on one problem, then states there are 3 more issues they want to raise
    - anyone asking if the NHS will remove their tattoos
    - anyone attending in a Man Utd top
    - anyone who insists on showing you their feet despite the already obvious olfactory evidence that they haven't bathed this millennium
    - anyone emitting massively exaggerated coughs prior to requesting a sick note
    - ditto the exaggerated back pains who would "prefer to stand"
    - any GP who leaves his partners in the poo by taking early retirement
    - me, to escape this madness (I want my own shed, mind....)

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  • I laughed so hard at the hospital discharge letter I did a little wee!

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