As I may have mentioned a million times before, every Unhappy Monday morning I have a psychological technique for successfully levering myself out of bed. It involves cheering myself up by imagining that I’m doing an even more soul-crushing medical job than general practice, such as being an A&E consultant or running the local Pain Clinic.
Now I think I can add another to that list: chair of the GPC. I’m really not sure whether to offer Dr Farah Jameel, our brave new leader, congratulations or commiserations. Pulse has neatly summarised her bulging in-tray and Dr Jameel has already demonstrated a talent for understatement with the acknowledgement that there are, ahem, ‘difficulties’ ahead.
There sure are. And I’d like to add one of my own to her agenda. In ‘resetting’ the BMA’s relationship with the Government, I think her real priority lies not in persuading politicians of the true value of GPs but in convincing them that we are of any value at all.
After all, if you dig beneath the bluster of absurd, tiny funding pots and recycled money, the repeated and repeatedly unfulfilled promises of extra recruits, and the Pavolvian looped auto-bullshit messages of thanks for a brilliant job done, being the bedrock etc etc, then – without even reaching for a tin-foil hat – you reach a rather chilling conclusion. Which is that the Government probably really does believe that the NHS can do away with GPs.
The failure to recruit, by default or design, has meant that patients these days are as likely to see a pharmacist or nurse practitioner as a GP. And plans to progress AI and primary care digitalisation haven’t been shelved, even if Matt Hancock has. All these options are cheaper than GPs and, to anyone who knows sod all about general practice and how it protects the NHS from meltdown, just as satisfactory.
Add to that the current public and media anger over ‘GPs hiding’, which is slowly morphing into, ‘Would we notice if they no longer existed?’ and voila: the NHS may remain free at the point of use but it may soon be free of GPs, too, because hey, who needs them?
There is, of course, an easy and quick way to highlight how hideously wrong this attitude is. It involves reminding the politicians how badly things go pear-shaped when you misguidedly take GPs out of the equation, and it requires just three words: ‘Out, ‘Of’ and ‘Hours’. Dr Jameel is too young for the contractual shenanigans of 2004 to have had a direct impact on her, but doubtless knows her general practice history. And if the Government doesn’t accept her lesson on the value of GPs, they’ll just have to accept the consequences. And at least I’ll be able to stop worrying about that Monday morning feeling.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield