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Best be blunt about Brexit

Dr Pete Deveson

When is it better to be blunt? Imagine a scenario in which an otherwise sensible patient suddenly comes out with something nonsensical: ‘My homeopath said my elbow hurts because I eat too many raspberries’ or whatever. 

Now we know this is hogwash, but is it always a good idea to point that out? (‘We’ in this case meaning the blogger and his readership; the patient clearly doesn’t know, otherwise he wouldn’t be visiting a homeopath, and the homeopath doesn’t know, otherwise that would make her some kind of predatory charlatan, and in this hypothetical instance I’ve decided she’s just a wilfully misinformed nincompoop. What can I say? My vignette, my rules. Sandbox your own damn characters.)

Sometimes pragmatism wins the day. Perhaps you don’t want to jeopardise the doctor-patient relationship, or you’re running late, or maybe you don’t have a scooby how to fix his hurty elbow and you’re happy to run with the whole raspberry theory if it means he won’t ask any more questions. So, you just deploy your best De Niro shrug and let it slide.

But what if it’s, ‘my homeopath told me to cancel my curative cancer surgery and start her patented Drupelet-Free Detox Diet instead’? Suddenly the stakes are too high to remain polite. Step aside Bobby, it’s time to go full Dawkins

Sometimes you have to look at the big picture and tell the truth, no matter how problematic that may be. Which is why I was saddened last week to see Simon Stevens demanding the chancellor honours the £350m-a-week Brexit Bus Bonus promised to the NHS by Vote Leave last year.

Mr Stevens is not an idiot; he knows there won’t actually be any cash for him from Brexit – he might as well pretend he’s gonna secure NHS funding from the helpful Nigerian diplomats living in my spam folder.

And even Jeremy Hunt, on whose idiocy or otherwise I make no comment, knows enough to carefully precondition his response: ‘If there is a Brexit dividend…the NHS should be the first port of call.’

It’s all about politics, of course; Mr Stevens is caught in a desperate race with the government to decide who’ll take the blame for the inevitable winter crisis, and he’s trying to position himself so Mr Hunt ends up eating the biscuit.

But I’d respect him a lot more if he admitted what they’ve both skirted around (and I appreciate this opinion may alienate 52% of my readers, but we’re not talking about elbows here): Brexit is going to stuff the economy and with it the NHS, and by far the most sensible thing to do is to stop the whole sorry process before it’s too late.

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


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Readers' comments (18)

  • I wish more doctors were blunt about the fact that both France and Germany have combined insurance based funding and government funding which leads to a higher per capita spend on healthcare. Everyone knows that the 'free' NHS service cannot cope with medical innovation, an ageing population and increased patient expectations. Brexit or no Brexit.

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  • Most blogs make me want to punch myself in the nuts. But I rather enjoyed this one. Sour grapes are the only ones that grow in my garden as an aside. Whatever side of the B word fence you're on, right now it's a massive distraction for a weak government that could be doing more important things like trying to run the country. I do think looking to Scandinavia is a great idea, but a difficult comparison given population size differences etc.

    Regards to all etc.

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  • The NHS is f@cked whatever, and the sooner the whole dysfunctional abusive façade collapsed the better.

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  • ps And when the NHS does finally die, it will be nothing to do with Brexit, Global Warming, or even the price of fish.

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  • Knowledge is Porridge

    The brexit vote was like giving a restless toddler in a pram a bag of crisps and keys to play with.
    Our political leaders will be occupied for years, which is probably a good thing as we dont want another bright idea for how the NHS should be run.
    Time to start making long overdue hard choices:
    Compensation payouts (just stop / ban them)?
    Free prescriptions (charge a little bit every time)?
    GP recruitment / retention:
    How about 3 yearly appraisal aged 55+, with a £3000 "well done, keep going" payment each time.

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  • I don’t agree with this analogy that we the great British public have make an enormous error in judgement, I would trust the electorate more than I would trust self centred conflict of interest politicians to do right by our country, for example in NI we have had NO government for 10 months now and the public are not out on the streets clamouring for their return....says a lot really, our politicians are a distraction only and the real change comes from so many other avenues.....

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  • New drug trial : 34 million patients, 52 % success rate. P value practically undetectable. Without a doubt a winner. When will these remainers stop moaning that they were robbed.
    And no money was promised. It wasn't an election and there were no candidates, so there's no one to blame. Except those who voted. Back to moaning again.

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  • We haven't Brexited yet.
    As I recall we have these problems before Brexit but lacked the Sovereignty to do anything.
    Neither you nor I know what will happen but whining won't help.
    I've heard Romania is running short of GPs.
    Off you hop --- they wont be leaving the EU anytime soon!

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