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Brown, bigots and NHS budget cuts

The Jobbing Doctor feels sorry for Gordon Brown - but his Rochdale gaffe was symptomatic of a wider problem

I remember a joke that was doing the rounds in the 1970s. It was popular at the time of the introduction of the innovative 50p coin (the first to have two faces and seven sides). It also reflected the political views of the era.

Q: "What do the 50p coin and Harold Wilson have in common?"

A: "They are both two-faced and slightly bent"

The current prime minister is at the centre of a storm, where some unguarded comments were made following a meeting with a woman in Rochdale. He referred to her (in a private comment that was caught on a radio microphone) as a ‘bigoted woman'.

At a personal level, I feel quite sorry for Gordon Brown. As someone who regularly deals with the British public, I also have my own personal thoughts about some of my patients which are best kept to myself. I have been known to have a general moan about some people, especially when I hear people expressing racist language, or criticising someone who I know does not deserve such criticism. But maybe only to my partners, or a good medical friend.

Gordon Brown has now had to eat vast slabs of humble pie. It is a shame that he has had to do that, because he is entitled to consider views that he finds unacceptable to be bigoted. What was a problem for me is that he said one thing in public, and a completely different view in private.

There is no room in this most public of posts to express personal views without being hammered by the press and media.

So we now face a situation where politicians are unable to express honest views before an election, and we are left comparing various bland generalities, and the hard decisions will be made after the election. I really don't think that this is good enough.

The NHS is facing significant budget cuts. We will have to accept our fair share of budget restraints, and it would be good for Jobbing Doctors to know exactly what the options are. Where are the cuts going to fall? Will we see an end to Vocational Training in its current form. Will it be run by generic educators who are non-GPs? Will we have it changed to individual learning online?

I have heard that there is going to be a jobs cull at the Strategic Health Authority. I have also heard that PCTs are going to be reorganised into bigger organisations. Again.

What I don't approve of is the way that politicians deal with the public. They will say anything to get elected, and once that has happened, they will generally ignore professional advice and continue to make decisions based on their own influences, and we can do nothing about it. It is the 'elective dictatorship' as described (at the time of Harold Wilson) by Quintin Hogg.

As is often the case, it is best left to an outsider to express this view best, and in terms of British politics there are few people more on the 'outside' than a dead 18th century Swiss philosopher, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

He said that: 'The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing. In the brief moment of its freedom, the English people makes such a use of that freedom that it deserves to lose it.'

I think that he has that just about right.

What will be, will be.

Jobbing Doctor Jobbing Doctor