It's nearly election time. So who should the Jobbing Doctor entrust with the future of the NHS?
I have been reflecting on the choices available to vote for at the next election. We have all the right to be able to vote in elections every five years, and I intend to exercise that right, which was chiselled out of the ruling classes over many years.
I live in a marginal constituency, in the borough in which I work. Currently the seat is held by a Labour loyalist, but her majority is only in three figures. So my vote counts.
You might say that doctors have done well under New Labour. Certainly two events that occurred in 2004 made a big difference to me. Firstly, there were the changes to out-of-hours provision; and there was a significant pay rise.
The first was a life and health saver. Already over 50, I was really struggling with doing evenings and nights at the local co-operative. It was costing me around £4,000 to use the local doctor's co-operative, so when I was offered a deal costing me £6,000 per annum in lost income, this was a no-brainer. The patients have since had a very poor service when compared with what it was like before, but that was an inevitable consequence of Government policy.
The pay rise was accidental, and based on the fact that Government thought that performance-related pay would be difficult to achieve for many practices, wrongly assuming that GPs weren't doing the job that well. We know that most practices achieved most of the points quite comfortably.
So there was still a residuum of support for New Labour when they went to the country in 2005.
Since that time, however, any love that we might have harboured for the current administration has disappeared. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who is not on the Government payroll, or hoping for an honour, to support their decisions.
No, I cannot support New Labour.
So, what are the alternatives? Well, many professional people over the age of 40 find a natural home in the Conservative party. When we look at the Conservative party's promises and manifesto, there certainly are honeyed words and warm accolades for front-line workers. But underneath all the mood music, the policies are virtually indistinguishable from New Labour.
The Conservatives are also wedded to market-related solutions to the NHS's problems, and the market doesn't work in healthcare. Insurance-based solutions are based on getting money off the worried well, and dumping the ill (or not insuring them) if possible. The Conservative party's commitment has (for the Jobbing Doctor) been fatally flawed by the admission that the private provider Care UK is indirectly financing the office costs of the shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley.
No, I cannot support the Conservatives.
What of the rest? Liberal Democrats do not seem materially different from the other main parties, and their leadership has missed a big opportunity to be radical and different to the other two. They are clamouring for that middle ground that most parties occupy, and will perpetuate the status quo.
No, I cannot support the Liberal Democrats.
What is left? United Kingdom Independence Party? No. The Greens? Possibly. Socialist Workers' Party? Maybe. But their votes do not count in our skewed electoral system
I could spoil my paper, and write something quite puerile. A few minutes of satisfaction will be replaced with the knowledge that my vote is wasted, and other will decide the future of the NHS for the next five years.
No, what I need is an iconic leader that I can look up to.
Where is Screaming Lord Sutch?Jobbing Doctor