Copperfield is filled with horror at the prospect of taking back responsibility for out-of-hours care.
I currently view myself as a floating voter, but some comments from Andrew Lansley, Conservative health spokesman, have blown me clean out of the water.
Apparently the Tories are determined to hand the responsibility of OOH back to us GPs, saying that Labour made a huge mistake when they negotiated the ‘new’ contract and gave us – at a price – weekends and nights off
I voted for, and signed up to, that contract for one reason, and one reason alone. And here’s a clue: it wasn’t because I was rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of jumping through QOF-shaped hoops that would quite obviously be held progressively higher or subsequently set alight.
No. It was because I wanted my life back. I was working my nuts off in the day and finding myself increasingly knackered and bitter, given the context of patients’ escalating expectations, demands and inclination to bite my head off/complain/sue if anything went wrong.
Relinquishing OOH was the single best thing to happen in my career, even better than that incident with a nurse in the laundry cupboard of Surgical Ward D2, West Middlesex Hospital, when I was a houseman (I believe there’s commemorative plaque in there somewhere).
Indeed, I’d go so far to say that losing OOH may have saved my vocation, given that, just prior to the contract, I was frequently reaching the point mid-surgery when I felt like marching into the waiting room and telling the assembled throng that they could all *** off back to their homes because they were all ******* well doing my ******* head in to the point that I was going to go back to ******* window cleaning (which is what I did as a summer job when I was a medical student, in case you’re wondering).
So, anyway, it will come as no surprise to you to hear that there are many things I would rather do than take back responsibility for OOH, and these include eating shards of glass, banging nails into my skull and sitting on a spike. In fact, it is the one thing that really would have me considering industrial action, or an alternative career.
But that’s not all. Because, since we put our collective, off-duty feet up, the Government has managed to resolve the thorny issue over whether OOH is supposed to be ‘emergencies only’ or a free-for-all. It’s the latter – what other message does the 24/7 culture of NHS Direct, walk-in centres and God Knows What Else convey?
So OOH won’t be as we remember it. It’ll be much, much worse. Which is why I don’t know yet who’ll get my vote; but at the moment, the Tories look as attractive as something else that floats in water.