It’s strange how often people assume I can predict the future. You know the kind of thing: Do you think my sore throat will be gone in time for Christmas? When will I hear from physio about my appointment? Will this reflective debrief ever be used against me by a hostile prosecution barrister?
I’ve learned that, with a few notable exceptions (‘I’m 100% certain that I will not be issuing you a retrospective med3 to explain why you didn’t turn up to court’), it’s best not to commit too much one way or the other, because there’s no way of knowing the answer.
We interpret information in very different ways. For example, loads of people viewed that video of the door-opening Boston Dynamics robot dogs as a prologue to our imminent automated extinction; I just thought – robots who can open doors? Awesome! If we can only teach the buggers to work a keysafe I’m never going on another home visit.
But who’s right? We can’t tell… yet. Which is why Jeremy Hunt’s comment that ‘doctors knew what they were signing up for’ has irked so many of us.
He certainly didn’t envisage solving a list of complex problems every ten minutes under constant threat of ruin from the GMC and the CQC
(Turns out he didn’t say that, by the way. But his actual words – ‘when they signed up to go into medicine, they knew there would be some pressurised moments’ – were so close an echo of his recent diss target Donald Trump’s crass comment about fallen soldiers that they ended up being widely reported as identical.)
I’m trying to imagine explaining to my former self, as he naïvely picked his A levels back in the mid-90s, that 25-odd years later he’d be typing his opinions onto a touchscreen tablet so that other doctors could read them on their phones the next day while having a poo. Could he have predicted that? I doubt it.
He certainly couldn’t have envisaged having to solve a list of complex medical, psychological and social problems every ten minutes under constant threat of ruin from the GMC and the CQC. If he had, he’d have quit school and invested his pocket money in Google like I just imagined telling him to.
But what of Jeremy Hunt’s prognosticative powers? Remember those 5,000 new GPs he promised us by 2020? Well, we’re halfway there and the grand total stands at about minus five hundred. Turns out if you increase a job’s workload by 15% while simultaneously cutting the pay by 20%, fewer people want to do it. Even I could have told him that. But of course, I don’t make predictions.
Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey