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What lies behind that smile?

Through the K Hole gives his take on the Government’s charm offensive towards GPs

He was invited along to the Government buildings in town. They were granite, smooth faced, austere and layered with a tracery of green Purbeck marble. Neighbouring offices, smaller and more self-conscious seemed to huddle together, so that looking up all he could make out was a thin lozenge of pale sky.

On the front steps he was met by the minister who had invited him to discuss the white paper reforms. He wore a deep charcoal suit and political grin and seized him with a brisk handshake. He was taken through a central antrum into a maze of tight corridors. Everyone he met greeted him in the same way, the same business like manner, the same slightly lopsided smile, the same flashing crescent of white teeth. He was shown through into a meeting room where a group of GPs sat sipping coffee and fiddling with their name badges.

Right from the outset they were told how important they were, how necessary they were for the future survival of the NHS, how imperative it was for the billions of pounds to be in the right hands, and how given their expertise and professionalism, it was GPs who were clearly the best people to do this. The smiles rainbowed down and well-crafted compliments wafted over them like sea-mist; eventually, glistening with kudos, they were invited for a coffee break.

He felt uneasy. He’d been watching the politician at work, his grin was a permanent fixture, a rictus, frozen like a piece of latex sculpture; there was something unnerving about it. Against his better judgement he decided to follow him.

The politician took a short flight of stairs downwards, into the basement, away from the plush humanity and respectful polish of the offices. He followed its yellow-peeling walls round and out into a small quadrangle. Here there was a patch of waist high grass, opened up to the sky but boxed in on all sides by the windowless Bastille of the building. An empty water tank lay hidden in the undergrowth, drumming with rust and rainwater.

Just opposite was a set of heavy double doors, wooden and protective, he crouched down low and watched as the minister shouldered them open. Stooped over so as not to be seen he ran up to them and squeezed through.

Once inside, holding his breath and with his back tight up against the wall he stopped to listen. He could hear someone rehearsing the same phrases over and over, phrases which stressed the importance and value of GPs. As his pupils pooled open he was able to make out rows of masks, thin skinned and limp, hanging on hooks. He reached forward and took one down, tentatively stretching it out. Its flesh gave out a silent yawn and then folded back on itself. He recognised it as the minister’s.

Behind one of the racks was the outline of a head, veined, grimly dermatitic and hairless. The tissue-thin skin the same abhorrent colour of milk crust. It snapped on one of the masks and turned to him. Grinning inanely it held out its hand in false greeting.

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen. In response to: Cameron meets GP pathfinders to discuss reforms

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