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Is the future for GPs written in the stars?

It is quite easy to pity politicians: the relentless scrutiny of their expenses, the effort of running that second home and the temptation of subsidised beer in the House of Commons bar.

But occasionally our leaders come along with a suggestion that is so original that Sick Notes has to sit up and pay tribute to the robustness of our democratic process. One such occasion was the recent proposal from House of Commons Health Committee member David Tredinnick that GPs should use astrology to treat patients more efficiently.

Sick Notes - September

The Conservative MP for Bosworth, Leicestershire, said he believes the ancient practice could ‘certainly’ be useful to GPs and also help reduce the cost of the NHS as a whole. ‘It works on the basis of observation and to a degree intuition, and this is something we have lost in the health service. We rely too much on evidence and should listen more to patients’ experience,’ he helpfully explained to Pulse.

Now Sick Notes may be Aquarius ascendant, with a moon rising in Uranus (boom boom), but one could not help wondering why this has not been thought of before. Perhaps because a full astrological assessment is impractical in a 10-minute GP slot? Or maybe the CQC has banned tarot cards unless they are cleaned between readings?

Sick Notes is a big fan of the email out-of-office reply. 

Newcastle GP Dr Timothy Binmore made us chuckle with his automated email, which explains his absence by stating that his wife wanted a foreign holiday – despite being ‘married to the hunkiest man on the planet’.

‘I’m sure you are just as shocked as I was,’ he says. ‘We went to Scotland in April.’

But Professor Hywel Williams, professor of dermato-epidemiology and director of the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham, takes the medal for his ‘otherwise engaged’ message.

He begins: ‘In case you think I am hiding at home, I really am on holiday in Italy this time.’ Arresting enough, but there is more.

‘And I shall be back on 5 August, Chianti willing.’ Light-hearted, but informative.

‘Rest assured that Margaret, my long-suffering administrator, will be keeping a beady eye out for urgent things and will get them to the top of my list when I’m back.’ Lovely lady, Margaret.

‘Now I know many of you have been following my autoreplies and are dying to know how I got on in Rotterdam from the autoreply earlier this month.’ Oh?

‘Well, a certain absent-minded Professor drove to the wrong airport. My flight was taking off in 50 minutes from Birmingham, but I drove to East Midlands airport. The FlyBe people then found me a flight from East Midlands to Amsterdam which sounded fine, but would have cost me £600, so that was not good. Then, thanks to the gods of aviation, they told me that my Birmingham plane was delayed by 90 minutes. How lucky is that? I caught my plane and lived happily ever after. Well, potentially.’

Sick Notes will update on any further developments.

Now GPs across the land may be dreading having to collect data under the Friends and Family Test, but Copperfield has come to the rescue.

The test requires practices to ask a supplementary question of their own – an opportunity ‘too good to miss’, says the Essex GP. His suggestions include: ‘Are you sick of satisfaction questionnaires?’ or ‘You do think, don’t you, that the FFT is a patronising and pointless waste of time?’ Or Sick Notes’ favourite: ‘Do ya think I’m sexy?’

NHS England makes its monthly appearance in this column thanks to the launch of its ‘Integrated Personal Commissioning’ programme from April 2015. The announcement was couched in the usual impenetrable jargon: the scheme will create ‘a combined NHS and social care funding endowment based on each individual’s annual care needs’. Eh?

‘This will blend funds contributed from local authorities and NHS commissioners. Individuals enrolled in the programme will be able to decide how much personal control to assume over how services are commissioned and arranged on their behalf.’ No, Sick Notes hasn’t a clue what that means either.

Reading between the lines, it looks like NHS cash will be carved up and handed to patients in a potentially dangerous scheme allowing them to spend it as they choose. Sick Notes hopes that’s clear.

PR fail of the month: ‘British men snapping up the snip’. Nuff said.

Any funny incidents or managerial faux pas that you would like to share with Sick Notes? Email and you could be included in next month’s column.