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The waiting game

The message on respecting the NHS is going viral


The Covid-19 situation is changing so rapidly that I could be addressing a post-apocalyptic waste ground by the time you read this (or don’t).

It certainly feels like the battle against coronavirus has become a full-on war. And war, huh, what is it good for? Absolutely something. Because it’s an ill wind, etc, even if it comes with a rain of Covid-19 droplets. So somehow, sometime, some positives might emerge from this mess.

For example, the ‘dig for victory’ mentality that this crisis is engendering might just make the general public appreciate the NHS a little more, now that they’re being deprived of much of it. Many younger cohorts have grown up with an all-you-can-eat service that has always catered for their every want, even when those wants betray the mentality of a stroppy two-year-old. Not any more.

So those who don’t hesitate to dial up at stupid-o’clock about that forgotten script, that annoying niggle they’ve had for months or the fact they’ve suddenly come over all terribly sad, will hopefully find a less indulgent health service abruptly and dramatically realigning their expectations. Which means contacting 111 in mid-pandemic might become less phone call and more wake-up call.

Contacting 111 in mid-pandemic might become less phone call and more wake-up call

Assuming they can get through at all. And even the patients whose NHS interactions comprise habitual and proper use rather than whimsical and instantly gratifying abuse are encountering – and, generally, accepting – significant change, such as a shift to remote consulting. Maybe the coronaviral lessons will even focus political minds on what the NHS can reasonably be expected to provide these days. For far too long, the emphasis has been on icing rather than cake, with new initiatives and absurd expectations crushing the life out of the core service.

Even at the best of times, the NHS is on the brink of meltdown. While the current situation is hardly typical, it does help highlight that we should shift our priorities away from novelty and indulgence and towards treating the sick, with enough slack in the system to manage crises – there’s one every winter, after all.What else? Well, here I’m anticipating that the plug has by now been pulled on appraisal, CQC, QOF et al*, and I’m hoping that the Government will notice how wonderfully primary care can perform without micromanagement and nanoscrutiny.

And how the redeployment of those lost to the clipboard, the tick-box and the hoop-jump can actually make a significant contribution to the workforce crisis. Although when I say pull the plug, I really mean permanently strip all the wiring. Finally, even my own attitude is changing.

The Hancockian digital dream has always seemed more Hitchcockian nightmare to me. But now that nudge has come to shove, and I find myself obliged, say, to video-consult, I’m starting to think he might have a point. Although that could be an early coronaviral encephalitis speaking. See? It’s not all bad, is it? Is it?? Hello???

Is anyone out there???? Well, that was a bloody waste of time, wasn’t it?

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at

*Please note that this column was originally published in the April 2020 issue of Pulse

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Readers' comments (10)

  • yep

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  • Nope, sorry. As soon as this is over the bog roll buying public will be knocking the door down to sort out all their problems that they patiently waited months for...

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  • tony blair started the all-you-can-eat craze. if it wasn't new and shiny it was crap. he even put a SURGEON - i mean for christ's sake - in charge of his souped-up nhs. when it didn't work, he elevated him to the house of lords !(where he seems to have faded into oblivion)

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  • under "emperor blair" i was fined £2000 because "appointments aren't available in your surgery within two weeks". when i pointed out that appointments weren't available at all, not at any time - because i didn't have an appointment system - they, initially, refused to back down. when i threatened to phone the daily wail, and point out i saw patients the same day, without them even having to phone up, they backed down, and gave me back my own money !!

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  • Yes, David, it was probably some numbskull who does not see any patients, or administrator who has power beyond their humanity who took £2000 off you. You wonder at the waste of money when the NHS pays such people to waste time demoralising you and then you quite rightly got your hard earned money back. What was it all about...
    Incidentally, there's no reason to blaspheme in a comment. Would you do the same for Islam,
    Judaism, Hinduism and other religions, or do you just pick on one religion? Be polite.

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  • Cobblers

    To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is verbal or written reproach of God’s name, character, work, or attributes.

    I would find David not guilty.


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  • I can remember a published story - perhaps 15 to 20 years ago , of a GP practice receiving a complaint via the LHB or FHSA . A new patient asked for an appointment - but was refused -‘ the practice doesn’t, have appointments ‘. The lead GP responded to the complaint - of course we have an appointment system - as agreed and set up by the partners some years ago . But unknown to the GP,s . , their staff found the appointment system created such chaos - that the staff abandoned it !. All worked smoothly until two years later when this new patient signed on and complained .

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  • So, maybe it is a good time to start talking about minimal fee for an appointment?
    or stop moaning.

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  • After the lockdown I fear it will be like after Christmas. 'I didn't like to bother you over the holiday but I have had this and this and this......

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  • Thank Goodness there is someone who has the courage, experience and perspective to speak up about doctors who are used as a glorified postage service and minor employees at best and someone to abuse and blame at worst.
    Thank you!!

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