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Independents' Day

Should retired GPs return to work in the coronavirus crisis?

Two GPs debate on the plans for retired GPs to help handle the Covid-19 outbreak



YES - I would need no retraining, refreshing or re-education 

‘I retired six years ago, still enjoying practice but fed up with pointless bureaucracy. But I love my country and have great affection for the NHS. If needed, I shall certainly help if I can. It will be fascinating to see if the Department of Health and Social Care and the medical powers that be can avoid making such a pig’s ear of re-engaging people that they don’t put everyone off!

I should be most use performing admin tasks in the practice, that release the active GPs to deal with actual patients. All the repeat and requested prescribing could come my way and release an hour a day per GP.

Looking at all incoming lab results, sorting them and phoning patients with results would also be a quick win, as would looking at all incoming letters and highlighting any actions needed from them.

Staff could approach me for advice they felt was within my competence and, at a push, I could deal with incoming phone calls, triaging them - certainly better than any NHS 111 efforts.

If I do admin tasks, I could release an hour a day per GP

When you’re not going to actually see the patient, it’s easy to work within your competence and direct them to visits, appointments, or 111, etc.

I need no retraining, refreshing or re-education to do any of this. Simple in-house instruction in practice policies and current computer systems would suffice, as would NHS indemnity - just in case.

Notice I’m not prepared to see any patients in the flesh, nor to lose any sleep worrying about them…

I also don’t need to be paid (my pension is more than enough to get by on) but if I was, I would donate what I got to charity.

Ideally, practices should be allowed to ‘take on’ their own retired partners, as knowledge of staff, computer systems, working habits and the like will greatly help to make the retiree’s contribution really useful.’

Dr Alistair Moulds is a retired GP in Basildon, Essex, and Pulse’s former medical adviser

eamonn jessup 3 x 2


NO - UK health ministers have done everything in their power to push GPs out of the exit door

‘So, the UK Government seems to have developed a sudden interest in the status of recently retired doctors and bringing them back into the fold of mainstream primary care.

Can you feel the love?

What’s brought about this seeming change of heart in the health secretary's thinking?

Could it be a sudden Damascene conversion to recognise the worth of a cohort of GPs whose experience often spans decades?

Seemingly, for the last decade, UK health ministers seem to have done everything in their power to push GPs out of the exit door at the earliest opportunity.

Issues like pension reform, bureaucracy, appraisal, revalidation and ‘diplomatisation’ have all conspired to produce a larger cohort leaving than entering our craft.

I suggest this love letter is nothing more than a poorly-thought through panic-driven measure being put forward in response to an increasing possibility that the coronavirus (Covid-19) cannot be stopped from becoming an epidemic in the British Isles.

Putting our oldest colleagues in the front line of Covid-19 is the modern-day equivalent of Dad’s Army in World War Two, except we don’t have any weapons to fight off the invisible invader, whose weapons are especially attracted to the older members of society.

Few facts are known for certain about this virus, but one thing is clear the risk to older cohorts goes up significantly, so putting older doctors in the front line would at face value seem counterintuitive.

So, is it just poorly thought through panic, or is it cleverer than that?

If this becomes a major public health threat, it will be in part due to Government incompetence

Those GPs drawing pensions are an enormous and increasing drain on the public purse and pension funds, might our leaders have seen an answer to two problems at one time? Surely, they could not be that ruthless?

One thing is sure - those GPs still paying their GMC subscription might well be reviewing whether they should still be on the register if there is any thought, they might be called upon to man the front line.

So come on, Dad’s Army GP recruits, time to don the invisible cloak of emotional resilience and man up to take the first hit for the generals.

Our recruiting sergeants will use every trick in the book to make us believe we’re the right ones to be the ‘poor bloody infantry’. If this becomes a major public health threat, it will be at least in part be due to Government incompetence, and I’m not coming behind with the pooper-scooper.’

Dr Eamonn Jessup is a locum GP in North Wales and Northern Ireland. He is planning to retire in the near future

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Readers' comments (23)

  • "time to don the invisible cloak of emotional resilience and man up to take the first hit for the generals"


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  • Cobblers

    I'm firmly behind Dr Jessup on this one. Best survival tactic here is reduce mixing with the herd, not increasing it.

    Dr Moulds' approach is more altruistic but much riskier and the kicker is, which made me laugh, he doesn't want paying!

    Ultimate cardie but I suppose it'll keep him warm when he is shivering and shaking with Coronavirus thinking how indispensable he was.

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  • Cobblers

    Oh and NEVER rely on NHS Indemnity to cover you. Always have a separate policy with a MDO who have (mostly) your interests at heart.

    NHSE Indemnity will feed you to the wolves if it suits them

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  • Matt Hancock = General Melchett.
    Thought I'd seen him before somewhere.

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  • I vote Jessup!!!! I admire Dr Moulds sentiment but feel that he is playing further into the hands of politicians by showing how much value is attached to his work.... then his 'generosity' would be used to shame doctors wanting paid - who are not retired, who had to pay of their education, have children to feed etc etc. i.e. the government would take advantage of his generous nature. Dr Jessup might be cynical, but incompetence or malevolence is likely behind the governments suggestions to send older workers to the coalface..... hang on where's Ivan? He doesn't like us criticising his comrades in the GMC/CQC/NHSe/ HMG/ Hancock - their alliance reminds me of the soviets use of the "reign of terror" to terrify the masses into obedience... and perhaps sending older GPs into the coronavirus fight is like the soviet policy of getting people without guns to run at the enemy.... hoping to pick up something from their fallen comrades(In our case more likely corona virus than a gun)..... before they too get mown down..... hang on, we're crossing over into General Melchetts top secret plan..... I wonder if Babylon is Matt Hancocks Speckled Jim?

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  • I have had a good life in the NHS. I am now 76 and in good shape, so if I can help bail the ship out in a storm I will, and I will not expect to be paid. Perhaps the youngsters have not had such a good time but this is primarily about humanity, not the NHS.

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  • Community care is going to be the cornerstone of the Covid-19 pandemic only a tiny fraction will make a hospital bed. Cancel the licensing requirements and let's get to work. Perhaps the chancellor could even reinstate our pensions...

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  • "Forgiveness is the scent, left by the violet, on the heel that crushed it."
    But it would still be way beyond me to dive back in.
    "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

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  • Firstly, induce all part-timer GPs to work full time for the next 4-6 months.
    Secondly, abandon QOF for this year.
    Thirdly, scale down 'routine' care for patients who are not acutely ill.
    Cancel all routine CQC visits for the next 12 months.
    ONLY after all these measures have been taken should recruitment of retired GPs be considered.

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  • Great opportunity for the desk jockeys at PCNs, CQC, GMC, RCGP etc to come out from behind their desks and see some actual patients instead of asking retired doctors in the highest risk demographic to put their lives at risk

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