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Sick Notes: Poetry in an LMC motion

Of course the LMCs Conference is an important forum for local GP leaders to determine the direction of GPC policy, but it has its fair share of ridiculousness – which this column is determined to exploit.

For instance, this year we saw GPs submit motions that they should be able to give out pedometers on prescription, that England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not ‘Londonland’, and if Scotland votes for independence Norfolk should align itself with Holland.

But Sick Notes also loves a lyrical conference motion and the prize this year must go to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight LMC. With all the eloquence of a young Keats, the LMC leaders crafted a motion that is a masterpiece of understated sorrow: ‘This conference believes the “jewel in the crown of the NHS” is in severe danger of being reduced to a broken string of costume beads by the initiatives of the current administration and its refusal to listen to the justified concerns of the profession.’

If that does not get Jeremy Hunt to listen, Sick Notes does not know what will.

Sick Notes loves the Daily Mail. Its pages are particularly soft when the Andrex runs out. While tearing the beloved newspaper into square sheets recently, Sick Notes came across a wonderful piece about patients queuing for four hours to see a GP.

‘Here is my new trainee. He aced the CSA, and now he is studying for his Run-DMC.’ Sicknotes - June

It wasn’t the usual diatribe about the woeful service offered by ‘fat cat’ GPs, but something to warm the stoniest heart. The patients were lining up to bid farewell to ‘good old-fashioned’ GP Dr Richard Hughes on his retirement. The newspaper reported that so many turned up, the practice struggled to fit them all in. It illustrated the piece with a picture of patients – in wheelchairs and leaning on their walking sticks – in a line snaking around the corner.

All of this without a single snide prediction of how he’d finally get to put all those mid-week sessions at the driving range to use. Wonders will never cease.

NHS press officers enjoy a game of tennis. Sick Notes often ponders if they come into the office in their Wimbledon whites, limbering up to volley away an awkward query from some unsuspecting journalist.

And so it was for the bewildered reporters at the Hackney Gazette as they reported on the ‘disastrous consequences’ of abolishing MPIG in their area. This was a great piece of local journalism, with much detail on how the 12 practices would be affected. But what caught Sick Notes’ eye was the confusion over which organisation bore responsibility.

As the newspaper recounted: ‘The Gazette asked the Department of Health whether a fund might be on the cards, but a spokeswoman did not answer the question and referred the Gazette onto NHS England. An NHS England spokeswoman said, however, that: ‘Any questions about a Government fund would have to be answered by the DH’. Deuce. Play on. 

This one goes out to all the GP trainers in the house. A GP has made a rap song with advice for aspiring GPs trying to pass the CSA exam.

Dr Chima Anya’s rap, set to Vanilla Ice’s 1990 hit Ice Ice Baby, advises graduates they should remember to ensure they ‘get the patient’s ideas, concerns and expectations – ice, ice baby’.

Dr Anya highlights the importance of ‘using open questions in the first minute’ of the exam. He raps: ‘Before I start to hear about your central crushing chest pain, tell me your ideas and what you were expecting. “Heart attack!” Well I think you might be right, but what are your concerns? “I’m concerned I’m gonna die!”.’

The rapper, who goes under the name ‘The Doctor’, is also a GP in south London. In 2013, he made the list of Pulse’s top five inspirational GPs after releasing the YouTube hit Can’t Touch This – Hunt Resign, based on MC Hammer’s 1990 hit, about the health secretary’s comments on GP out-of-hours access.

Sick Notes attended Pulse Live in London last month and had privileged access backstage to the speaker’s lounge. With a line-up of distinguished speakers including GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul and NICE head Professor David Haslam, it was a revealing few days.

But the atmosphere almost turned poisonous after the speakers’ lunch was placed in front of one of the workshop rooms and was devoured in minutes by a horde of hungry GP delegates. Luckily, a member of staff was available to hand out lunchboxes to pacify the great and the good. Lesson learned – never cross a hungry speaker or underestimate the ability of GPs to gobble up a freebie.

Finally, some people really take their jobs too seriously. The Freedom of Information officers at NHS Business Authority are a case in point.

Their po-faced answer to a recent enquiry from Pulse about whether they held data on patterns of prescribing in young people must break records for the most high-handed response ever from an NHS organisation.

They said complying with the request would take 4.17 million hours, to check all prescriptions issued. The response concluded ‘the cost of complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit of £450’ set by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and that the request would therefore be rejected.

This was fair enough, but the original request was not even submitted under FOI and was merely an enquiry to see if there was any data about young people. Some people really need to lighten up.