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The dial-a-GP mentality

Jobbing Doctor has been watching the election, and is less than impressed with politicians' latest wheeze

It is interesting to go away on holiday, as it gives a perspective on your job, your life and the importance and balance of both. One week in Budapest has allowed me a dispassionate view of what is going on in general practice, and once again we have not been disappointed by our politicians.

In one week the two main parties have come out with the same manifesto plan, and that is to have seven-days-a-week opening of general practice surgeries: 8am to 8pm.

So I ask myself, have they thought this one through?

Silly question!

Firstly, they plan to increase the opening hours of general practice from just over 50 hours to 84 hours, a 60% increase. This will mean that we will need to have doctors on site for all of these times, and receptionists, and nurses. Will this idea come with a 60% increase in allocation for these costs? I presume that time will be available off during the week, or will the Government be funding it?

I really don't want to working at weekends any more. Over my career, I have done so many nights, weekends and unsociable hours, that I have neither the will nor energy to be seeing patients at weekends.

There are also issues about access to facilities in the hospitals at the weekends. There are no secretaries, and the X-Ray and path labs are run on an emergency team only. Many chemists are shut after 6.30pm. The patients who are seen at the weekend are at a disadvantage as well.

This smells to the Jobbing Doctor of an idea which is promoted in order to win elections, and we are aware that there is an election coming up very soon, and all the political parties will be making promises so that they can attract our votes. It is disappointing, but not surprising that they are all sharing the same idea.

Is there a call for it? In certain quarters there is. Employers love the idea that staff are kept at work, and do not need to take any time off over the working week to get medical advice. Some sections of the chattering classes are now so used to a consumerist approach to all aspects of their life, that they cannot see why healthcare cannot be included in their 24-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week dial-a-pizza mentality. Other than that, it is a shame that the weekend continues to lose its special feel.

The Jobbing Doctor is married to a teacher. She works Monday to Friday, so it is good that we have weekends together. This plan will completely disrupt our home lives, and all so that some smart young political turk can ingratiate himself/herself with the general public, making other people work even worse hours and conditions so that they can win back the support and approval of the general public.

This is not a good plan for smaller practices, either. Some of our best general practice takes place in smaller practices. The sense of ‘my' doctor is very redolent in smaller practices, and they will become impossible to manage over a seven-days-a-week cycle.

My experience of manifesto pledges, generally, is quite encouraging. Many of them are quietly ditched once they have achieved their aim, and that is to enable people to get themselves elected to high office.

This is an idea, we are told, whose time has come. This is Britain in the 2010s.

This idea is actually a throwback to the 1940s.

Where it should have been left.

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