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Merrily spinning their way out of the A&E crisis

Pulse caused a minor panic at the Department of Health last month after daring to ask questions about the health secretary’s statement to Parliament on the A&E crisis.

Jeremy Hunt claimed to MPs that measures would be taken to ‘temporarily’ release time for GPs to support ‘our most precious public service’ (that’s the NHS to you and me), but when the DH was asked to explain his thinking, it responded with the PR equivalent of yelling ‘la-la-la’ while covering its ears.

A tweet mentioning practices would be given an extension to the QOF reporting period ‘to April’ was swiftly deleted after Pulse pointed out that the current deadline was 31 March so the move would be unlikely to free up much GP time at all.

Yet when pressed for details on what the department was planning, a press officer explained that Mr Hunt had only said he ‘may’ get GPs involved in helping to ease the crisis, and in any case it was already freeing up GP time by enabling electronic transfer of GP records and the £30m ‘Releasing Time for Care’ seminar programme. ‘This was only a suggestion at this stage,’ sniffed the press office.

Forgive Sick Notes for thinking that there might be any actual substance behind the health secretary’s official statement to our elected representatives about patients dying on trolleys in corridors. Surely it couldn’t be just more spin, could it?

But Mr Hunt’s struggles on the national stage appear to have gone unnoticed by Conservative voters. He has more than doubled his support among the party faithful, according to a recent poll by website Conservative Home. True, the bar had not been set particularly high but his net satisfaction rating of 29.7% last September had climbed to 66.3% by the end of the year.

Less happy are the mandarins at Mr Hunt’s department, who are the unhappiest in Whitehall.

A survey by the PoliticsHome website has found only 24% of DH staff would recommend it as a great place to work – a sharp fall from 44% a year ago. The department also has the lowest score of any in Whitehall for confidence in its leadership, and the inclusion and fair treatment of staff.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Whilst these are disappointing results, the survey coincided with a significant restructure and consequently an unsettling time for staff.’ Surprisingly, the number of Pulse requests for clarification of ministerial speeches was not mentioned as a contributing factor.

The replacement of trained nurses with call handlers using an algorithm has been such a rip-roaring success that NHS 111 bosses are taking it a step further.

Call handlers will now be replaced by an artificial intelligence chatbot in a new NHS 111 app being trialled in London.

The app sees users inputting their symptoms, prompting follow-up questions. At the end of the exchange, the bot advises the patient how to self-care or access NHS services. Rumours all the advice will consist of is ‘Beep, beep. Proceed to A&E’ have yet to be confirmed.


Far be it from Sick Notes to provoke a gender war, but it has recently been shown female doctors are better than their male counterparts – with lower mortality rates and fewer readmissions.

A US study, which looked at four years of data and 1.5m hospital visits, suggests 32,000 lives could be saved if male doctors performed as well females. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, said: ‘There is evidence that men and women may practise medicine differently.’

And in comments that should lay to rest disparaging references to the ‘feminisation’ of general practice, the study continued: ‘Literature has shown that female physicians may be more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, provide preventive care more often, use more patient-centred communication, perform as well or better on standardized examinations, and provide more psychosocial counselling to their patients.’

So, lads, maybe you should get more in touch with your feminine side.

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