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Independents' Day

Please Mr Hancock, take some time to understand general practice

Editor’s blog

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I’m trying so hard not to be that editor who jumps on the health secretary for the sole reason they are health secretary. Let’s face it – it is a thankless task. They have an NHS screaming out for desperately needed money on the one hand, and a Treasury screaming out for them to not have any money on the other.

And in the case of Matt Hancock, he was parachuted into the role as a result of the political crisis caused by Brexit. That he has no background in health whatsoever is hardly his fault and, if he doesn’t understand the intricacies behind the Carr Hill formula immediately, that is not necessarily a signal that he will be a disaster.

With that in mind, keeping his counsel and learning his patch would be a smart move. Sure, it may attract some criticism, but as they say it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Unfortunately, Mr Hancock isn’t taking this road and has gone full guns blazing in favour of Babylon’s GP at Hand model. (As an aside, when his predecessor attached himself to a cause, it was something as uncontroversial as ‘patient safety’.)

Non-profitable patients not only need care too, they need the most amount of care

Mr Hancock told the Telegraph GP at Hand is ‘revolutionary’, ‘helping to take the pressure off the NHS’ and ‘helps to deliver ultimately a better service’.

Most shockingly, he said: ‘I care about helping GP at Hand to expand not because I want to help Babylon but because I want the rules to be in place and the system to work so that loads of companies can come and do what Babylon are doing. I want to help your competitors even before they’re starting.’

Now, I don’t need to tell you all that is wrong with this point of view. One thing I would say is it suggests to me that he does not understand the basics of general practice.

So I make a plea to the health secretary: learn about general practice before tying yourself any further to Babylon. Understand how general practice doesn’t lend itself to free market economics and competition. Non-profitable patients not only need care too, they need the most amount of care.

We can forgive your silence. We can’t forgive your destabilising of general practice.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


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Readers' comments (13)

  • One would presume that being Health Secretary for a nation was a more responsible role than the one any of the tens of thousands of individual medical practitioners in the service have? And yet consecutive Health Secretaries seem more ignorant than their predecessor.
    Respect - None
    & he didn’t have to take the job?

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  • I have this morning done a telephone triage surgery for those people who feel they can’t wait for a routine appointment. I have been a GP for 20 years and feel I do a reasonable job but having reflected on the mornings work I just can’t understand how any virtual service can possibly have done my morning safely without the ability to review a patient record, lease with members of a PHCT, have access to a building, investigations etc
    I would love to see an analysis of a session of work from these virtual providers to see where I am going wrong!

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  • Vinci Ho

    Take it easy , folks .
    Agent Hunt was undoubtedly a ‘miracle’ to be able to stay on as Health Secretary for so long and deep down , he honestly did not want to be stranded at this position. But it was really the fate of the Tories through a referendum and two general elections(2015, 2017) which created a ‘hostile environment’ where he appeared to be the only candidate who fit the role as a belligerent Secretary of State . Virtually, towards the end of this appointment, he basically handed his authority to Simon Stevens instead .
    On the other hand , the irony was he also gained a reputation of resilience through this long and winding journey of politics . No one can now dare to rule out the possibility of him to be the next prime minister (only he must remember to introduce his wife as Chinese rather than Japanese in future public outings).
    And for Mr Hancock, I am afraid that his appointment is just turning the clock back to time when Health Secretary used to have a short expiry date .
    Is he capable’ ?No
    Will he last long ?No
    Do we believe in anything he said ? Most definitely No.

    Our battle goes on and we are not going to let our guard down.
    Good luck , Robocop.

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  • Tory is as Tory does.
    Mr Hancock likes to suck on the tit of the private sector.
    To hell with the little people.

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  • It does seem that not only does he not understand the health service, but that he has no understanding of required standards of public life, or even of the subtleties of politics.

    It is almost as if he is the son the family didn't want in the family business so put in to a bought parliamentary seat 'to keep him out of mischief'. Unfortunately any one with any talent in the ruling party seems to be keeping their head down (I'm sure there must be some...)

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  • How about we change this stupid situation where you only make money from patients who never come and as the article says the non profitable patients need the most care.
    Isnt this nuts?
    If a patient is seen then a payment should be received. Simples problem fixed

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  • Azeem Majeed

    Good advice Jaimie.

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  • Angus, the best help for the 'little people' as you put it, is to treat them like adults, and give them as much responsibility as they can take, that you would expect any adult to handle, anywhere else in the world. You want to spread more money around? The less government spending and intervention, the more money would be generated and be spread around willingly. Again, I specify, you don't have to be an absolutist. You can cover emergency treatment, primary care, subsidise via insurance for anyone under the poverty line (i.e. Singapore's system). What is clearly mad to do, would be to cover EVERYTHING for EVERYONE, hence incentivising illness behaviour, malingering, abuse, less care for one's own health, not to mention compounding it by micromanaging it to death with bureaucracy

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  • I think we should just take a leaf out of Babylon's book and remove all patients from our list who are pregnant, have long term health conditions, mentally ill, elderly or otherwise in any way shape or for incapacitated or require face to face evaluation... Voila! Stress free working environment!

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  • Christopher.
    I don't disagree with all you say and that not everything should be on the NHS. Perhaps our adult politicians could have an adult conversation about that, ot perhaps they can still refuse to make adult decisions about for example OTC medicines and leave GPs to sort that out.
    But contrary to what we are brainwashed with there is plenty of money in this country. What is increasingly clear is that it is all in the wrong places, and that those places are becoming fewer and fewer.
    Austerity is a massive lie sold by politicians and their media friends for the convenience of a few.
    Paranoia? Perhaps. Or just wait till its impossible to do anything about it.

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