Health secretary Jeremy Hunt manned the phones at two busy GP surgeries in London recently spearheading a new initiative to force Department of Health civil servants to experience working on the NHS front line.
Mr Hunt answered calls from patients at the Hurley Clinic in Kennington, south London earlier this month saying he was under ‘constant pressure from callers for appointments’.
The health secretary also helped out in reception at a GP practice in Wandsworth last week.
The health secretary will announce later today that Whitehall officials will also be expected to follow his lead, leaving their offices to mop floors and empty bedpans in hospitals as well as rolling up their sleeves helping out in GP practices.
The Francis Inquiry into the failings at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust published in March urged health officials to make more effort to get out of Whitehall and meet patients.
Mr Hunt said: ‘Too often, civil servants are accused of making policies from within the ivory towers of Whitehall. It is time for this perception of aloofness to end. No member of staff should be able to get on without a personal understanding of our most basic aim – providing excellent care for the public.’
Dr Murray Ellender, a GP at the Hurley Clinic, said: ‘We welcomed the opportunity to host the secretary of state at our practice. Mr Hunt spent a couple of hours answering calls from patients and dealing with reception issues under the supervision of our reception lead, Mr Isaac Nunoo .
‘Mr Hunt then spent some time talking to key members of the practice team such as GPs, secretarial staff, nursing staff and the practice manager. We hope that left with a better understanding of the pressures facing all team members in modern general practice. Especially the pressures experienced by the reception team with whom he worked.’