This site is intended for health professionals only

Sick Notes: GP bashing? That was so last week

The backlash was inevitable. After months of headlines about GP practices ‘on the brink of collapse’ due to shrinking funding, the establishment hit back.

A broadside in The Times newspaper from columnist Alice Thomson told ‘overpaid’ GPs to ‘stop whingeing’ and adapt to increasing demand. ‘A decade ago there would have been huge sympathy for these poor put-upon professionals,’ she writes. ‘But not now.’

Ms Thomson – described by the PM as a ‘close friend’ – suggests the RCGP’s ‘Put Patients First’ campaign should be renamed ‘GPs put themselves first’ as many commonly work part time, and are leaving A&E departments to pick up the pieces. ‘They have done pretty well, even during the recession,’ she writes.

It is a vicious diatribe against the profession, but journalists have very short memories. Less than a week after that poisonous column, The Times ran a piece titled: ‘The drop-out club for doctors: why medics are leaving the NHS’. Hmm, I wonder. Perhaps continual denigration from right-wing columnists?


The selfie trend has officially gone too far. GP and NHS Confederation head of policy Dr Johnny Marshall photographed himself last month with multiple delegates at the Confederation’s recent conference in Liverpool and posted the pictures on Twitter. After the twentieth uncomfortably close picture of Dr Marshall grinning next to a bemused delegate, it got too much for one GP who tweeted back: ‘Please stop’. Even this did not end the bombardment.

Thankfully the conference only lasted three days, otherwise Sick Notes would have had to travel to Merseyside to stage an intervention.

An editor at a certain magazine for NHS managers also created a stir at the conference. According to Sick Notes’ sources, he burst into the press room, ranted about the food and berated the reporters, saying, in all seriousness, ‘You own this conference’ – and then left. 


Sick Notes was surprised to hear health secretary Jeremy Hunt hailing an extra 6,000 GP appointments per day as a success for the Conservative Party.

Speaking at a House of Commons health debate last month, Mr Hunt listed the improvements to the NHS since the previous Labour Government, including more GP consultations, 3,000 more ‘vulnerable people’ being treated in A&E and 10,000 more diagnostic tests as successes for the party.

But with the current general practice workload, less than one appointment per practice each day is no victory. Mr Hunt needs to re-evaluate his goals.

Sick Notes-July-online

‘Here is our new recruit. He can just about hold a pen, so we are sending him on the next inspection


Sick Notes often wonders whether NHS England has secretly been staffed by people from another planet. There can be no other explanation for their recent antics over an interview by Pulse journalists with a top NHS official.

A request to film the interview was rebuffed with: ‘We cannot agree to that as we don’t know how you will edit it.’ Okay. How about we ask some questions and write up the quotes? ‘No, we cannot allow you to ask whatever you want and it must be off the record.’

There had to be a careful explanation that an interview with no film or quotes was, well, not an interview at all.

After a number of calls and strongly worded emails, the press office allowed the interview, and select bits of filming, but Sick Notes wonders if negotiations should be conducted in Klingon next time. 


Pulse blogger Dr Kevin Hinkley caused a stir recently. Riffing off the recent revelation that the CQC was using untrained inspectors to poke around GP surgeries, he posted about an alternative reality where children would be drafted in to fill gaps on CQC inspection teams.

Sick Notes enjoys a bit of surrealist writing, but it seems others thought he missed the point. ‘We all need a sense of humour, but it would be a shame not to recognise that children and young people are users of GP practices, and that even quite young children are able to give informed feedback on services,’ wrote one commenter.

Another described a ‘pathfinder project’ that ‘encourages children and young people to give feedback about the healthcare services they have experienced in Cumbria’. It does seem that reality is stranger than fiction.


Sick Notes is partial to the odd carcinogen, but was very surprised to be offered a free trial of an e-cigarette recently. Under the title ‘review opportunity’, a PR consultant offered us a sample of the latest ‘premium e-cigarette brand’. Now call Sick Notes a pedant, but offering health journalists a puff of nicotine is not the best idea. A beer and a burger, on the other hand…