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Hung up on the election

As he watches the election results roll in, Phil takes a look back on 13 years of practising under Labour - and doesn't like what he sees...

It's election night.

Three hours ago I donned a jacket and tie, gathered my teenage sons around me, gave them a brief but impassioned speech on the glory of democracy they were about to witness, herded them into the car, and made them stand and watch while Mrs Pev and I made a cross on our bits of paper and dropped them into a metal box.

'Is that it?' said my eldest. 'Yes it is,' I said, a tear in my eye. 'Men have fought and died for our right to do that, son. Never forget it.'

I forbore to mention the fact that, as we live in one of the safest Labour seats in the country, I might as well have tossed my ballot paper on the floor and danced the hornpipe on it, for all the difference it made. But I don't want to discourage their young and impressionable minds.

In fact, in this part of the world, we would elect a monkey if it had a Labour badge on it. Indeed, just down the road in my home town Hartlepool, we actually did.

Hartlepool United's mascot H'Angus the monkey was elected mayor nine years ago and won another election since. He's still the only simian mayor-elect in the world, if you don't count Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now I have my feet up on the sofa, laptop on lap, eyes on telly. My constituency, Houghton and Sunderland South, has always prided itself on being the first election result declared. I expect to see it within the hour, which is lucky, because I'm on a deadline with this article. Last time, on the basis of our result alone, Peter Snow managed to predict the Labour majority to within five seats, so I don't expect to have to stay up for too long.

We might be looking at the end of an era, so let's reflect. I've been a GP for 17 years, 13 of them under Labour. During my career I've seen our consultation rate double, so that our practice of (initially) four GPs now employs eight, plus registrars, and we're all working harder than ever.

I've seen the monster called QOF - a behemoth whose purpose I still don't really understand - suck in our time and attention and distract us from what we really want to do for our patients.

I've seen Choose And Book - a genuine disaster that absorbs staff time like a sponge and actually reduces patient choice.

I've seen the MTAS debacle, which can only have been designed as a humiliating put-down by sour managers and politicians. The shame of this inhuman system should dog Patricia Hewitt until the day she dies.

I've seen the advent of the Summary Care Record, a ludicrous expense and an invitation to abuse of confidential records.

I've seen open vilification of GPs by those in positions of power, the lies about our pay, the undermining of our professionalism, the disinformation in the press.

The new contract is a disaster, not least because the Government can alter their side of it at will. We are much worse off, as a profession, than we were 13 years ago.

But most of all I've seen the deliberate dismantling of our hard-earned role - walk-in centres, nurse practitioners, prescribing pharmacists, physiotherapists who intercept our referrals and 16-year-old ingenues on the end of swine flu hotline, dispensing expensive and dangerous drugs according to evidence-free algorithms.

The first results are in and it seems we're in for a hung parliament. One era over and another begins. Thank God we are finished with those GP-hating Labour swine, at least for a while. I wish I could be optimistic about what's next, but I can't find it in me.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley