The health secretary’s plan is unachievable, says Dr Copperfield
I’m just trying to work this out. Let’s be honest: there’s not a huge amount of detail, is there, in Our Plan for Patients? As in Her Plan for Patients, though I can see why Thérèse Coffey might want to distance herself from it.
There is, after all, quite a lot in the way of what sound like recycled announcements, and a liberal sprinkling of words – expect/facilitate/empower/continue – which put the manifesto at arms-length from actually doing or promising anything at all.
The best example, of course, being ‘We will set the expectation that everyone who needs an appointment with their practice within two weeks can get one’. That is so remote from an actual thing that it reminds me of the distance from the reception desk to the back of the patient queue. ‘They’ are not promising that all patients will be seen within two weeks. ‘They’ are not even ‘expecting’ that. But ‘they’ are going to ‘set’ that expectation – in what? Stone? Sewage?
Which dilutes it out into meaninglessness – exactly where it needs to be, because there is no way they can achieve this. Even if they altered the contract unilaterally, there wouldn’t be any point, because it’s just not doable in this universe.
Perhaps they were just floating it out there in the hope that the public would pick it up and run with it. And yes, we’ve already had the irate/entitled berating our receptionists for breaking an NHS ‘guarantee’, even before the official announcement, thanks to the morning’s headlines. Well done on that – since we’ve reverted to face to face as default, patients have been desperate for something new to beat us over the heads with, and a rolled up copy of Coffey’s plan will do nicely.
Most likely, this policy-punt is linked closely with another key access bombshell: published and publicised practice-level access data as of November. It all makes sense, right? Wrong. Name and shame my practice. Patients leave in droves for the surgery down the road which comes top of the access pops. Their list size increases. Their staff leave due to workload. Their doctor/patient ratio becomes unsustainable. Their waiting times go up. They get named and shamed. Errr…
As Thérèse says, this will ‘equip’ and empower patients. To go round in circles, that is. At least it makes a change from standing in a line.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs here