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Can GPs really learn anything from banks?



It looks like our Jeremy Hunt has come back from his holiday full of beans and bursting with new ideas. His latest is that we should model general practice on the banks.

I don’t think there’s very much of our work we’ll be handing over to patients

He doesn’t mean drive the country to the brink of bankruptcy plunge us into deep recession and ask the taxpayer to bail it all out, no, he thinks we could improve our efficiency by getting patients to do more of our work for us.

He claims that banks have become more efficient and profitable over the last decade by getting us to do their job for them – internet banking was the example he used. You log on and do the work that previously would have been done by a bank clerk.

Well that sounds great for banks and you could forgive most lay people for being naïve enough to directly compare commercial banking with a state run health service. Any lay person that is, apart from a health secretary.

I’m not sure where we could even begin handing over some of our work to patients. A significant number still don’t understand the repeat prescription system, despite the fact it’s been in place for a couple of decades. As for our automatic check in screen that requires them to confirm their date of birth, well frankly you’d be as well asking some of them to critically appraise the mathematics behind the Higgs boson.

Asking patients to complete their personal details on referral forms is usually met with a blank stare and ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses’ (often a euphemism for ‘I don’t read and write very well’).

I guess we could have a DIY blood pressure machine in the waiting room if it wasn’t for the fact toddlers would be using it to strangle each other before the day was out.

DIY rectal examinations in the comfort of your own home? Well I could talk them through it on the phone while I simultaneously tick off QOF boxes on the computer, but it might all get a bit messy.

No I don’t think there’s very much of our work we’ll be handing over to patients to do for us in the near future.

There may be something in Mr Hunt’s idea though. Perhaps there are some banking practices we could mimic: only talking to our patients through bullet proof glass, charging them £25 for every letter we send them and closing up shop at five o’clock for example, any takers?

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London