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What happened when I quizzed Jeremy Hunt on the GP workforce crisis



In an unlikely turn of events, Jeremy Hunt, who held on to his seat in Surrey South West last night, came to Mablethorpe to speak to a small group of the electorate last month. Oddly, no-one from health was invited, but as you see from the below picture, my seven-year-old daughter Maddy was worried about the effect of forthcoming changes on her small world and I was worried about politicians fundamentally messing with the NHS again. So my practice manager and I sneaked in anyway.

Maddy

 

There were questions about local issues such as the unfunded wave of temporary residents hitting the east coast every summer. He countered worries over losing local maternity services with the standard response that ‘local GPs will decide on that.’ But despite this use of clinical commissioning to deflect that question, I sensed an undercurrent of dislike for CCGs (he kept referring to the ‘odd decisions’ made by his predecessor).

I asked him how he would resource seven-day working and the continuing devolution of services from secondary to primary care given our workforce crisis. The answer was with 5,000 extra GPs.

I asked him how we could manage for the ten years it would take to train them. This is what I understood from his response:

1 Apparently we should change our models to use nurses more to see patients. He seems unaware of how much nurses contribute to general practice already.

2 He will give us some physician assistants, whatever they are.

3 Every GP should have a personal assistant to take notes, blood tests and blood pressures. So a PA to do what I already do.

I suggested I wasn’t entirely convinced by these plans. He countered that he is an optimist and I am a pessimist. I was hoping for realist…

Dr James Howarth is a GP in Mablethorpe.