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Bosses call in the fire service ... as the NHS burns

NHS England lines up a crack team of fire-fighters and robots to boost patient care in this month’s Sick Notes

The shortage of GPs must have got bad. NHS England is now seriously thinking of employing firefighters to carry out health checks on the elderly.

I kid you not. A blog from Jacquie White, NHS England’s deputy director for long-term conditions, (no, Sick Notes hadn’t heard of her either) suggests that because the incidence of fires has halved, the health service should be redeploying the fire brigade to carry out sight checks and give immunisations.

‘There are common risk factors between health and fire services which increase demand,’ she says. ‘So how could the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service work together?’

Now call Sick Notes a stick in the mud, but no. If we start down this road, where will it end? Policemen palpating your pulse? Traffic wardens walking around with a spirometer? Librarians stopping you in the non-fiction section for a quick pr exam?

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The messiah has come in the form of an egg-shaped robot. As Jesus said, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown’, and Sick Notes expects it will take several years before GPs fully appreciate the genius of an animation released by NHS England detailing its digital ambitions.

The National Information Board has released a YouTube video showing how an unwell ‘Egbot’ is failed by the grey, analogue NHS, left waiting an hour for a GP appointment ‘usually during work hours’.

But, wait. What is this? A giant tablet computer transports our shell-shrouded hero into a new ‘digital world’. His paper prescription is swept away, replaced by online appointment booking, Skype consultations and relaxation classes (booked through his online personal health budget of course) – all ‘open at hours to suit you’.

Aren’t we lucky to have an NHS with such vision and the good sense to spend taxpayer’s money on a vision of what it would look like with unlimited funds and time to burn?

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Sick Notes is well aware that in the busy production of a newspaper mistakes can happen, so is loath to cast judgment. But recent perusal of the ‘corrections and clarifications’ column of The Times threw up a corker that deserves wider publicity.

The column said a front-page story that stated ‘Hundreds of thousands of people endure a painful, undignified or lonely death because of “appalling” end-of-life care right across the NHS’ was ‘incorrect and misleading’.

It went on to explain that it had been quoting the number for whom end-of-life care could be improved and added: ‘“Appalling” was the reaction of the Department of Health to the 12 cases of very poor care cited by way of illustration in the ombudsman’s report.’

From hundreds of thousands to 12? That is not  ‘misleading’; that is a massive, stinking, cataclysmic blunder that deserves much more than a footnote.

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Fair dibs to the CQC – it has finally managed to grow a sense of humour about itself, even if it is slightly misplaced. Middlesbrough GP Dr Heather Wetherell – who has recently set up a walking group for GPs and consultants to share ideas and improve their relationships – recently tweeted that she was preparing for her CQC inspection. ‘Good luck! Are you taking them for a long walk?’ quipped one GP. ‘We’ll keep our eyes open for short piers,’ interrupted the ‘CQC for GPs’ Twitter account. ‘Fear not. He’s referring to something much more pleasant if we have the time,’ clarified Dr Wetherell.

‘We’ll make sure the team take CQC-branded inflatable armbands, just in case,’ replied the CQC. Awkward.

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The Channel 4 show The Last Leg should be commended for a morale boost for the whole of the health service. Just before the health secretary legged it off on his holidays, he was pursued across a rainy supermarket carpark by a man playing a giant sousaphone, organised by the programme. The clip has to be seen to be believed, and it sparked off many a tuba pun in the Pulse office. Do you think it’s a benign or malignant tuba? Don’t know but it is tubendous… (Taxi!)

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PR fail of the month. The BMA inadvertently sent out music recommendations via its official Twitter account during the summer. They were swiftly deleted but not before revealing the union enjoys getting down to Gladys Knight & the Pips’ disco classic Bourgie Bourgie and A Tribe Called Quest’s Electric Relaxation. Nice to know they’re working hard in Tavistock Square.

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