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What to expect in the coming months

Never mind the result - GPs face a bleak post-election future, the Jobbing Doctor fears

It's all over.

Votes have been cast, pundits have proclaimed, arms have been twisted and results have been analysed. People have voted, and those votes have either been based on the party whose policies most closely ally to the world view of the individuals (a positive vote) or to try and keep someone out of the representative role (a negative vote). I voted negatively.

What are we likely to be faced with once the excitement has died down? In the first few months I would anticipate that surprisingly little will happen that we weren't expecting.

Both of the main political parties have pledged to change general practice from what it is at the moment to a 12-hour-a-day seven-days-a-week service, so as Jobbing Doctors this is what we are likely to expect. There is not a huge demand for this, apart from the employers' lobby groups, but it is going to take place, and we'll just have to get used to it.

There is a cost element to this, and to increase access at these times means increased cost of heating, lighting, staffing and professional time. Many staff will be expected to be paid a higher rate for antisocial hours, and it will be problematic to work at the weekend where the main labs, X-Ray departments, secretaries and consultant staff will just not be there.

When Jobbing Doctor was discussing this at a practice meeting earlier this week, the feeling among the partners was that of resigned acceptance. One of my partners said that we had had a more normal existence over the last few years, and it was bound to come to an end at some point. Sigh.

There was a general feeling that the changes are going to be forced through by weak and populist politicians who would like to do what is popular and not what is right.

‘Twas ever thus.

It will be important for our leaders to attempt to negotiate a fair and appropriate deal after the election. The Government will save a significant amount of money by requiring less of the privatised out-of-hours companies (who have made such a pig's ear out of the out-of-hours service). That money should be taken away from these firms and used to help finance the extra costs of the changes.

Jobbing Doctor has a comfortable income. Considering the level of training, knowledge, skill and commitment, it is not different from many other professionals, and a lot less than doctors in other countries. But it is a good income with a good pension. I'm not complaining. However, it is disingenuous to expect professional people to do more and more and more over succeeding years for the same money (six years so far), and try and repeat the trick again. An 84-hour week needs to be funded properly.

I expect some pretty dirty tricks over the next few months. We will have a new Chief Medical Officer who will be inexperienced, appointed by the executive, and will be expected to be the Government's stormtrooper when dealing with the profession. Do not expect a man or woman of substance, integrity and independence: we will have a loyalist appointed.

The media will continue to spin viciously against us, particularly the odious Daily Mail, whose only use is to hang in small pieces in the smallest room in the house for coprological use.

So, gird your loins and prepare for the worst. We are in for a bumpy ride.

At this moment the pipe, slippers and cardigan are looking very appealing.

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