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Minister caught on the hop over GP funding.. and other stories

With yet another Tory funding mirage, trouble stirring at the RCGP and patient groups divided on ‘bribing’ GPs, Sick Notes hardly knows which way to turn

Austerity-crazed Conservative health ministers have turned reannouncing old money as new money into an art form – but they can be caught on the hop.

In response to a recent parliamentary question, social care minister Alistair Burt said that ‘during 2017/18, £171m will be made available to CCGs to enable practices to upscale and implement measures tested through the access fund’.

But after an enquiry from Pulse about how GPs could access this magical new pot of money, he realised his mistake.

A Department of Health mandarin told Pulse it would be looking at ‘changing the Hansard’ (the official written record of parliament) as there was no new money on top of the £500m already allocated by 2020 under the Prime Minister’s seven-day access fund.

A DH spokesperson added sniffily: ‘To clarify, there’s absolutely no change in approach.’ Too right there isn’t.

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A recent teabagging incident at RCGP headquarters threatened to boil over.

Tweeting what looked like the finest Earl Grey tea leaves encased in a silken bag, RCGP Council member Dr Dominic Patterson asked: ‘Do these teabags send the right message to members, who pay a huge membership fee?’

He followed it up with pictures of a monogrammed pen and pad, saying ‘this was new’, before laying into the use of branded water bottles.

But the charges of ‘elitism’ brewing around the college were calmly called out as a storm in a teacup by chair Dr Maureen Baker. She pointed out: ‘As a council member you should know not a penny of members’ money is spent on teabags. Catering brings income into the college, thereby reducing subs.’ That was very re-strained of her. [Ed – enough of the tea puns or you’ll make a mug of us].

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Sick notes never understands how single organisations can claim to represent all patients, but they keep trying. However, they can’t agree on whether ‘bribing’ GPs is a good thing for patients or not.

Bribes are OK: Joyce Robins from Patient Concern on the NHS offering £20,000 bursaries for GP trainees to work in deprived areas: ‘It is bribery. But if they simply cannot recruit GPs in certain areas, this is what they will have to resort to.’

Bribes are not OK: Katherine Murphy, Patients Association chief executive, on the QOF: ‘Giving doctors bribes to focus on a specific condition is morally wrong and ethically wrong.’

Bribes might be OK depending on the circumstances: Katherine Murphy again, on paying GPs up to £4,000 under the retainer scheme: ‘What are they other than a bribe? It worries me that we have to wait until the crisis is on hand before attempting solutions that are a little more than a sticking plaster.’

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The Cameron Fund does fantastic work supporting GPs, although a recent newsletter from the charity hints at an existential crisis. Under the heading: ‘Should the Cameron Fund be named the Cameron Fund?’ the newsletter said that it was aware that the fund ‘does not explain who we are and what we do’.

It goes on: ‘Many younger members of the profession do not know of Sir James Cameron and the name of the current Prime Minister has made this an even greater problem. Do you think we should change our name?’ Answers on a postcard to mary@cameronfund.org.uk.

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The Health Service Journal has begun an investigation into the use of the non-clinical workforce in the NHS with an interesting partner: large outsourcing provider Serco. Credit for a major initiative to mobilise the health service’s ‘hidden army’, although it does rather look as if the magazine is feeding the fox information about the chicken coop.

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PR fail of the month. The press officer at the Royal College of Physicians who in emailing out a release about a report on the use of personal health information managed to breach the confidentiality of all the journalists she sent it to by revealing all their email addresses to all recipients.

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