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GPs should just ‘let it go’

Sick notes-Feb-330x330px-online

‘I wouldn’t mind, but she is running 30 minutes late’

‘Can you live without a GP?’ The Telegraph asked recently.  Well, yes, of course you can, thought Sick Notes. But would you want to?

The article began sensibly enough, explaining that no one has to register with a GP. This is very true, but after that it was not long before it plunged into dizzying levels of ludicrousness.

It pointed to ‘acid-tongued’ receptionists and the ‘non-worker friendly’ opening hours as reasons not to register, unfortunately citing a patient survey that showed 92% got their last appointment at a convenient time and 87% found receptionists helpful.

It went on to recommend NHS Choices, pharmacies or NHS 111 as alternatives to registering with a GP. ‘You occasionally get a nurse being a bit sniffy with you for calling about a non-emergency, but they still give you great information,’ advised the article.

Then we met Alan Richards who, along with his partner, had opted to go it alone, ‘medically speaking’ for the past two years. Two years? Yes, you heard that right. Alan tells us: ‘Most of the illnesses we’ve had are the usual coughs and colds, but when it’s anything more involved you’d be surprised by how many sources of help are out there.’

Well that is a wonderful endorsement for self-care, but Sick Notes is willing to bet that if Alan gets a lump on his testicles, he won’t be reaching for his laptop or popping down to Boots, but taking his growth straight down to register with the local family doctor.

That is, provided he can get his inflamed ball past the grouchy receptionist.

Despite a deep-seated animosity to disney, Sick Notes was pleasantly surprised by a GP’s recent version of ‘Let it go’ from the animated film Frozen – albeit with slightly reworked lyrics.

‘8:30 in the morning, already patients to be seen,’ she trills. ‘The first one coughs all over me, and the sputum’s kind of… green.’ She goes on to describe the problems of encouraging lifestyle change and the frustrations of CQC inspections, and also manages to rhyme ‘K request’ with ‘pest’, which is worthy of praise in itself.

So come on, all together now: ‘Just tell them no, tell them nooooo…’

The CQC are a rum lot. Last month, Pulse published a story showing one in seven practices had been told they ‘require improvement’ by the regulator following a new-style inspection.  An important story, as it indicated how many practices will have to make changes to meet the CQC’s updated standards.

But within minutes, the CQC press office had pinged over an email saying it was ‘very surprised’ at the story. Had we misinterpreted the figures, you ask? Had we quoted them wrongly? No.

‘I feel you could for once have led with a positive,’ whined the spin doctor, adding with no detectable hint of irony: ‘I would have thought that you might have liked to celebrate – as we do – the fact that we found the vast majority to be providing good service.’

After spluttering tea all over the computer screen, Sick Notes had to conclude the regulator must be deploying a hitherto hidden sense of humour. With the ink barely dry on its apology for trashing the reputation of hundreds of practices by publishing dodgy ‘intelligent monitoring’ scores, surely it could not possibly be serious? Could it?

In a rare burst of good news, the national newspapers all covered a paper that claimed all death from cancer would be ‘eliminated’ by 2050 for everyone under 80 years. An extraordinary claim that Sick Notes felt compelled to examine in more depth.

The claim originated from UCL’s School of Pharmacy. It looked at the progress that has been made on cancer treatment and prevention and noted that between 1991 and 2012, efforts at reducing tobacco-related harm, boosting diagnosis and new treatments had reduced death rates for breast, lung, bowel and prostate cancer by 30%.

It goes on to say that it is possible that by 2050, nearly all cancer-related deaths in those aged 80 or younger ‘will have become preventable’ through lifestyle changes and better therapies.

Hmm. A far cry from proclaiming the end of the big C. And, of course, such progress relies on patients getting access to those therapies. Shame, then, that the paper came in the same month as NHS England cut 25 treatments from the Cancer Drugs Fund. Utopia looks ever further out of reach.

PR fail of the month. The pharmacy chain that released a 22-minute ‘sexercise’ music track designed to help couples get in the mood. That is about the time it takes Sick Notes to unbutton its long johns in this weather.