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A new contract of nothing



Not a lot in it, is there? In what? The title race? The vote on leaving the European Union? The decision whether to give your next pleading, sniffly punter a script for amoxicillin?

Even in a contract of nothing, there’s a simmering undertone of bullying

No. The new contract. There’s not a lot in that. And that’s probably the best thing that can be said about it: it contains nothing. No QOF churn, no dumbass new DESs, no serious money, no nothing. And, based on the pressure, absurdity and micromanagement of recent new contracts, nothing is better than something.

After all, the alternative to a contract offering pretty much nothing is one that continues to punch us in the face. And the Government must have calculated that stopping the beatings might just be enough to persuade us to stay – possibly correctly, given that we’re so battered and bruised it’s hard to think straight and certainly difficult to summon up the energy to bugger off.

Even in a contract of nothing, though, there’s a simmering undertone of bullying. We will, we’re told, have to perform a six-monthly analysis of routine weekend and evening appointments – which might have us grasping for whatever phrases lie beyond ‘utterly pointless’ were it not for the discomfiting feeling that, somehow, we’re being softened up for a very nasty extended hours future.

Also, we’ll have to self-report whenever we pay over some arbitrary odds for a locum – a truly bizarre demand on self-employed contractors, who can surely pay what the hell they choose to prop up their own service, and who have to do so because of the decimating policies of the very people making this imposition.

If that’s not irony enough for you, then consider that these two new requirements come in the context of the Government’s new – though possibly mentioned every single sodding year – commitment ‘to reduce bureaucracy’.

Oh, and of course, while there will be no contractual obligation, as such, we’ll be ‘encouraged’ to adopt electronic access for patients to their own correspondence, electronic prescribing and electronic referrals. Whether this ‘encouragement’ will involve electronics applied to our genitals remains to be seen.

Overall, though, I’m pathetically happy with a contract that offers nothing, because that’s the type of crushed GP the Government has turned me into. I can just about convince myself that it does, at least, signal an end to the change-for-changes-sake-fest so beloved by health ministers, plus it allows me to catch my breath, dab the sweat from my brow and turn, momentarily, from the coalface into the light to see what’s been going on and what I can do about it.

Besides, we’ve got the eagerly anticipated package of Jezza around the corner. And while the contract’s been nothing, that could be quite something. Which is exactly what I’m afraid of.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield