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New Labour really hated us

The Jobbing Doctor says good riddance to a bad Government.

Over the last 13 years of Labour Government, there has been one aspect of the NHS that would have seemed to irritate the Government more than anything. That is us, the general practitioners.

I really got the feeling that New Labour hated us.

Why so?

Firstly, we are independent practitioners. They didn't like either word. The ‘practitioner' indicated that we were actually doing our job, seeing patients, making decisions, influencing the way in which the health of the country was dealt with. We didn't sit in offices determining policy and writing statements: we were out there doing things. Interacting with the public, who are generally very appreciative of what we do. We are the Number One front-line workers.

If being practitioners was irksome to the New Labour project, that was as nothing compared with being ‘independent'. This is a red rag to that particular bull. The essence of new Labour was command and control, and with the GPs they did not really manage either. If I felt a patient needed referring, I would do so; and I would refer to whomsoever we (the patient and I) thought best. If I wanted to prescribe a medication that best suited my patient's needs then I would prescribe it. The Government hated the independence.

The history of interaction between New Labour and general practice is a pretty dysfunctional one. The Government consistently took bad advice, and chose advisors who were partial, biased or incompetent. I leave my readers to determine which is which, but suffice it to say that much of the healthcare decisions taken over the last 13 years have not taken into account any of the views of Jobbing Doctors.

The catalogue of incompetence is a long and inglorious one, and that is why you would be hard-pressed to find any doctor, who is not on the Government payroll, who is not delighted to get rid of New Labour.

The negative side is so long that all you need to do is list some of the Government decisions to know what we are talking about: several reorganisations; Private Finance Initiatives (PFI); the Daily Mail; quality and outcomes framework (QoF); Darzi centres; polysystems; private providers in general (ISTCs and out-of-hours in particular); empowering undertrained people to do jobs they are not competent to do; internal market; Ben Bradshaw; revalidation; the GMC......I could go on.

The positive side included a pay rise in 2004, and dropping out-of-hours.

One thing is particularly irritating this Jobbing Doctor at the moment and that is ‘compulsory training'. It has been decided that the latest way of trying to control GPs (and other doctors) is by running a whole series of sessions of compulsory training: these will involve any topic that the Department of Health is reacting to.

Child protection compulsory training, information technology compulsory training, infection control compulsory training and laptop compulsory training, and so on. I am not saying that some of these subjects are not important, but using up valuable clinical time getting some undertrained numpty from the PCT to come and give a PowerPoint slide show is the archetypal exercise in ticking boxes.

So Labour have gone. Good riddance. With a combination of record levels of spending and record levels of squandering money, they have managed to ensure that every doctor up and down the country began to loathe them. Jobbing Doctor is no exception.

We will continue to work as independent practitioners if we can. We will continue to do a valuable and appreciated front-line job. And be popular.

No wonder New Labour hated us.

The Jobbing Doctor is a general practitioner in a deprived urban area of England

Jobbing doctor