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Well done, BMA

Not three words that come naturally to Copperfield – but this time, it’s with good reason

‘Well done, BMA,’ is a phrase which, like, ‘Certainly you may have some antibiotics’ and ‘Here’s a note excusing you from community service’, I don’t expect to use that often. However, well done BMA. Well done for launching a ‘major attack’ on the Government’s plans to allow consortia to reward GPs for hitting performance targets.

Don’t get me wrong. I like earning money and certainly think the Department of Health should cough up for any commissioning-based work that distracts us from the day job. I don’t mind target-based games, either, so long as they don’t kill me or the punters.

But when I first read about premium payments for commissioning groups I was, frankly, incredulous. So incredulous, in fact, that I went all the way to the actual Health and Social Care Bill to check it out. And there it was, on page 41: ‘The Board may, after the end of the financial year, make a payment to a commissioning consortium if… it considers that the consortium has performed well during that year.’

Yep, if ‘It considers that the consortium has performed well…’ Possibly the most chilling sentence I’ve ever read.

Mr Lansley has tried applying a large dollop of E45 by explaining that there’s nothing to get all inflamed about. After all, he points out, GPs have received payments for quality outcomes for years.

Or, to put it another way, we’re too stupid to spot the difference.

Except we’re not. QOF essentially rewards us for doing more: nagging this smoker, lowering that HbA1c. Improving patient care, in other words. Quality premiums, though? I’m guessing here, but I have a feeling that the patronising pat on the commissioning head for ‘performing well’ may have something to do with reducing referrals and cutting prescribing. That is, denying patients treatment.

Yes, that’s an over-simplification, but that won’t put off the headline writers of the Daily Skewer. Bloody hell, they already need little justification to scream ‘Feckless, lazy, money-grabbing GPs’ over their poxy front pages already. Do they really need it on a plate? It, in this case, being the profession’s head?

So well done, BMA. There, I’ve said it again.

‘Sick Notes’ by Dr Tony Copperfield is out now, available from Monday Books.

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