It’s long been a contention of mine that the inability of people to distinguish ‘life was better in the past’ from ‘life was better in the past because I was young’ has been the source of so many political problems in recent years.
But the health secretary seems to have taken this concept to the nth degree when he speaks about wanting general practice to return to the way it was pre-pandemic. Because if I remember rightly, there were masses of complaints about waiting times and even GPs’ refusal to embrace digital technology in those heady days.
And GPs – the people who do know the situation best – agree with this. Our survey of 1,000 GPs found that eight in ten feel a return to pre pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments was unnecessary. Strikingly, only 9% said it was desirable.
There are a few reasons for this. Principally, the genie is already out of the bottle. Despite the prevailing media coverage, a sizeable percentage of patients embraced the easy access provided by digital consultations and they will not let that go.
But also, a greater number of remote consultations does help with infection control (and not just Covid). And there have already been benefits to care – according to our surveys, waiting times for face-to-face appointments have halved.
Of course, GPs will rightly be pointing out that things are not good now. Their workload is still unsustainable and, on top of that, they are dealing with a hostile media, which is being echoed by patients.
Unfortunately, the fact is that with current levels of demand and shortage of GPs, there is no system that will satisfy either doctors or patients. And this is a failing not only of Mr Javid’s but successive governments, which have encouraged patient demand without providing resources.
I, for one, look back longingly to the days of Frank Dobson as health secretary. In those days, public health was so good that I didn’t get hangovers after drinking and I didn’t spend the whole day limping after doing sport.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.