How do we encourage better performance? Some interesting solutions have been offered this week. In a scene that Merchant and Gervais would have dismissed as too far-fetched, hospital CEOs who’d been summoned by Jeremy Hunt for a bollocking about their failure to hit A&E targets were apparently forced to chant ‘we can do this’ in unison.
I don’t even know how to feel about this story; it’s at once both hilarious and yet also cringier than finding your nan’s sex toys. Despite their complicity in the demoralisation and demonisation of our junior colleagues in last year’s doctor’s strike, senior NHS managers have a tough job and I almost find myself feeling sorry for them, compelled to perform on command like the Zamundan Queen-To-Be.
Then I think of, say, the standard of every hospital accommodation ever offered to me or anyone else ever, and I go back to laughing again.
I’ve got nothing against positivity but, really? Since they haven’t furnished the assembled medical-honeymoon-wreckers with the necessary spondoolies required to actually fix the A&E problem, the Whitehall solution of upbeat chanting amounts to nothing more than Peter Pan-style magical thinking.
Just imagine if doctors applied the same methods. Chest pain? Forget the cath lab, let’s sit down and give your myocardium a stirring pep talk instead. And there’ll be no need to ration all that expensive IVF treatment, when you can simply stick the business end of a megaphone up there and exhort the little blighters to swim faster.
Meanwhile at the Labour Party Conference, which appears to sit on some kind of magical-thinking ley-line, the Guardian reports that MPs have suggested ‘enabling patients to somehow vote out GPs if they feel they get a bad service’.
I suppose this is the logical conclusion to the popularity contest we’ve already unwillingly entered with online reviews on NHS Choices et al, and I can’t see what could possibly go wrong. Everyone knows the most popular doctors are always the best, right?
Ideally it should be televised, so we can watch rival surgeries desperately handing out vote-winning benzos and Med3s before Simon Cowell picks a winner.
There’s one teensy problem with this scheme. The reason X Factor works is because thousands of hopefuls are queueing around the block for their turn on stage; but who will replace the losing doctors? When asked how close we are to hitting the 5,000 new GP target, a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We can do this! We can do this! We can do this! We can do this! We can do this! We can do this! We can do this! We can do this!’
Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson