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GPs as fire inspectors? How unrefreshing

Do you remember that Heineken advert on television a few years ago?

It showed some road workers digging a hole to lay pipes and then inviting other workmen to use the trench to attend to their jobs at the same time to save digging it again.

Well I reckon someone in NHS England came across this advert, because now it seems we are expected to be fire safety officers.

Did anyone else get the e-mail from NHS England asking us to check if patients in high rise buildings have a fire alarm, if they can hear it and if they know what to do if it goes off? Then if we have any concerns, to refer them for a home fire safety visit.

I can see the logic, I mean it all makes perfect sense, if you’re a pen-pusher out of touch with the real world that is. GPs see patients all day long, they’ve got plenty of time. Why pay for fire inspectors to go out to check on fire alarms when we can ask GPs to do it for nothing?

Why not indeed, bring it on.

I know as much about fire alarms as Jeremy Hunt does about running a health service, so why not?

While we’re at it would you like us to do boiler safety checks during home visits? I bled a radiator once that should more than qualify me for the job. We could run a few errands and cook lunch for our patients while we’re at it that would save social services a few quid.

Joking aside though, in light of recent events of course fire safety is vitally important, particularly for people living in high rise buildings, but to just assume this is another task that can be dumped on GPs shows just how ignorant or indifferent NHS England are to our workloads.

‘It’ll only take a minute’ I’m sure the response would be. Yes that may be true, but a minute is 10% of a consultation, what’s more it’s ten percent of a consultation that’s already packed to bursting point. In fact, it has long since burst and spilled its contents all over the floor.

Whenever we resist any new work, the same old chestnuts are wheeled out: ‘patients will suffer’, ‘GP have to take the holistic approach’, ‘GPs are best placed…..’ etc, etc. Then we are painted as the bad guys.

It may seem a bit mean objecting to what I’m sure would be helpful work, but if we don’t make a stand sometimes general practice will grind to a halt before Jeremy Hunt has all the private providers in place to take it over. This slow drip of unpaid tasks being absorbed without question is one of the reasons we got in to the mess we’re in now.

However, I hold out no hopes that common sense will prevail, so I suggest from now on all GP trainees are given mandatory training in buttock clenching, then with the addition of a broom to the usual array of GPs’ medical equipment, we can also sweep floor as we go along.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London