Dr Copperfield on wasting hours of his life on initiatives that later get scrapped
A week is a long time in medicopolitics.
Only seven days ago, Thérèse Coffey – buoyed by a flying start as health secretary in which she announced that GP numbers have been stable and even if that isn’t strictly true it doesn’t matter because primary care is run by chiropractors – proclaimed via a press release that patients will get appointments with their GP within two weeks.
The detail around this radical plan, released the following day, helpfully relaxed a lot of furrowed brows by explaining that this was an ‘expectation’. Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting responded, and I paraphrase, that England might ‘expect’ every GP to do his or her duty, but it ain’t gonna happen until GP numbers are fixed.
Fast forward one week and we have Dr Coffey, inexplicably and with no apparent sense of irony, dumping the two-week wait target in IIF. And Streeting, equally unironically, declaring at the Labour Party Conference that he would ensure patients can get appointments even quicker than two weeks and choose the type of appointment they want and see a specialist without bothering with GP appointments anyway. Oh, and have their on-demand supplies of amoxicillin delivered by Santa-direct.
You start to wonder if they’ve got a grip on their brief, or reality. I’d certainly like to get a grip on them.
But the lasting message for me this week was that I am never ever ever again going to get ahead with any NHSE initiatives or diktats. I’ve just wasted many hours of my life pursuing an IIF target for which the parameters have changed dramatically, rendering that work redundant, just like I’ve repeatedly wasted time in the past two years on QOF quality improvements, which are always pulled at the last minute.
And to rub it in, they also scrapped the requirement to do the patronising, egg-sucking mandated shared decision-making training, five days before the deadline – and after I’d completed it.
This is time and energy I will never recoup, simply because politicians can contemptuously and impetuously remove sticks and carrots with as little thought as they imposed them. And it shows how whimsical, disposable and utterly shitty those ideas were in the first place.
So yes, a week is a long time in medicopolitics. Whereas an entire medical career just seems to fly by.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs here