This site is intended for health professionals only

GP flu campaign allegedly disrupts entire town

There are constant calls for flu vaccination rates to be increased in at-risk groups. But one surgery’s efforts made national headlines after the military police had to step in.

Newspapers reported that almost 1,800 pensioners besieged a GP surgery in Colchester, Essex, ‘blocking roads and demanding jabs’.

The Daily Mail reported ‘absolute bedlam’, with cars parked on either side of the road on double yellow lines. ‘There were an awful lot of people getting very irritated,’ a bystander told the paper.

But, as usual, the reality was not quite as dramatic as the coverage suggested. Ann Read, practice manager at Creffield Medical Centre, told Sick Notes the report was ‘enormously exaggerated’ and the problems were simply down to traffic congestion outside the surgery on the day designated for flu vaccinations. She said: ‘It just happened that members of the military police were driving past and decided to get involved. I’ve spoken to the local police and they said there was nothing we’ could have done differently.

Nevertheless, Sick Notes thinks public health officials should give the practice a medal for raising awareness of the importance of flu jabs. Bravo!

Sick Notes - November

Sick Notes has learned that the national newspaper headlines on the crisis in general practice are having an effect. But not in the way you may think.

One GP told us of the very strange experience of a patient anxiously bringing in copy of Take a Break magazine. Not because it had highlighted the latest designer disease to consult a family doctor about, but because it featured an article about rising suicide rates among GPs and she wanted to be sure her GP was okay.

Sick Notes was interested to read The Times this month, which carried a front page mea culpa from a ‘senior cabinet minister’ over restructuring the NHS.

The minister told the newspaper: ‘We’ve made three mistakes that I regret, the first being restructuring the NHS. The rest are minor.’ The article adds that the Prime Minister and the chancellor both ‘failed to realise the explosive extent of plans drawn up by former health secretary Andrew Lansley’.

It’s not for Sick Notes to doubt the sincerity of a confession made – rather conveniently – a few months before the general election. But surely wasting £3bn on an unnecessary restructure deserves a bit more than a half-hearted apology?

It is a muggled old world, in particular for patients arriving at the City Walls Practice in Chester.

Patients who logged onto the practice’s self-service terminal for appointments recently found their names had been changed to characters from the Harry Potter books, such as Ms Hermione Granger and Mr Ron Weasley, following a computer error.

The practice said in a statement: ‘We have been informed that when a patient signed in for their appointment, the booking system’s test screen was displayed and not their appointment details. We apologise for this glitch and have notified the provider so that it will not happen again. We can reassure all our patients that this fault did not compromise patient data or safety.’

Sick Notes applauds this practice for making a trip to their premises an altogether more magical experience, and hopes it takes the idea further. Perhaps instead of allocating ‘named GPs’, the practice could assign patients to the House of Gryffindor or Hufflepuff, and heartsinks could be offered the Dark Arts on prescription.

Much to the relief of everyone who enjoys giving the establishment a kicking, UKIP has finally announced its health policies. Moving on from the manifesto of 2010, which espoused giving everyone vouchers to opt out of the NHS, party leader Nigel Farage has now announced a major public health drive to reduce HIV infection – by barring anyone infected with the virus from entering the country if he gets into power. ‘We cannot afford to have people with life-threatening diseases,’ he told Newsweek.

Sick Notes looks forward to further policies that bar diabetes patients and the depressed from landing at Heathrow, because of the costs they impose on our NHS. Man the barricades, only healthy people allowed in.

PR fail of the month: the website for extramarital affairs that sent a press release suggesting doctors were big cheaters as they can ‘financially afford to keep a mistress’. No no no. Apart from this being morally dubious and extremely sexist, Sick Notes doubts whether GP partners’ dwindling drawings at the moment could support such sordid extracurricular activities. Harrumph.