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We don’t need more money, just less work

So now, at last, those interminable jokes about Jeremy Hunt’s package can stop. Because we’ve seen the size of it. And it’s massive. Sixty pages thick. Sixty pages, the unkindest might say, of complete cock.

We were looking forward to something tangible and immediate

Now that, I think, is harsh. Because it does have some positive elements. Funding, for example, to the tune of more than half a billion quid, which is always good. Clear plans to stop secondary care dumping on us. Pots of dosh for staff training. And a properly resourced stress-buster service to help talk us down from the window ledge.

But the cynics will point out, with some justification, that there’s a significance in the repackaging of Hunt’s package as a ‘Forward View’. Because that changes the emphasis from something which we could unwrap here and now and find potentially transformative, into something which, instead, is vaguely out there on the horizon and will probably seem forever just out of reach.

And that’s a real shame. Because, given that we’re all on our last legs, we were looking forward to something tangible and immediate to give us some breathing space. Not more money, in fact, but less work. After all, if there are these resources sloshing around the system, how about using some of it right here, right now, to ease the burden before we gasp our last?

It could have been something relatively modest, like providing a proper nursing and community geriatrician service to cover every care home, thereby taking the GP out of the equation. Overnight, two sets of lives transformed, with both no longer having to hammer on the windows screaming to be let out.

Or why not something truly seismic. Something to make newbies want to join and oldies happy to stay? Like acknowledging that, for too long, GPs have been cramming two jobs into one by providing open-door acute access and, simultaneously, a service for sub-acute and chronic illness. So how about contracting out all acute care? All those ‘on the day’ requests, those ‘urgent visits’, those impatient ‘extras’. In other words, those myriad things presented as urgent which screw up our nice, pre-planned, potentially professionally rewarding routine, as they do, every single sodding day. Fund it to go elsewhere, I don’t care where, to see someone else, I don’t care who.

That’s the kind of thing we were looking for. Something that would make a difference, now, before it’s too late.

Instead, we have the usual fannying around at the periphery, with a ragbag of funding promises, recycled initiatives, random pilots and hollow resolutions. To implement any of these requires an effort of will, energy and time on our part that we simply don’t possess, and then might only be of vague help at some point in an even vaguer future. 

The arrow emblem adorning the cover of this latest quasi rescue package is big, bold and, presumably, pointing the way. But it’s really hard to have a Forward View when the very architects of this supposed salvation have rendered the job so unbearable that, driving to work each day, you can’t possibly Look Forward.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield