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Gearing up for another GPC U-turn

Obviously great news that a forthcoming review is likely to ban prescriptions for nonsense, that is to say homeopathy, that is to say water. But there’s a prescription about to be binned which I’m less delirious about. And that’s the GPC’s ‘Urgent prescription for general practice’.

Remember that? Last August, it was deemed so powerful a document that NHS England’s agreement to take it on board aborted a ballot on industrial action.

So, we’ve been waiting. And waiting. And, at last, some movement. The only problem being that the gear the GPC has finally found to move it forward is ‘reverse’.

Originally, we were going to negotiate a national standard for the maximum number of patients that GPs could reasonably deal with during a working day. Now the GPC chair tells us this is ‘simplistic’ and could be ‘counterproductive’.

Another Urgent Prescription action point was, to quote, ‘end the Quality and Outcomes Framework’. That sounds pretty unambiguous. Not anymore. The current GPC line is to retain and reform QOF, largely for fear of what we might have to do instead to re-earn that money. Maybe the GPC should remind itself of what the Urgent Prescription actually said: that QOF money should be reinvested into the core contract, which pretty much covers it.

So when the GPC accuses NHS England of being off the pace in delivering recurrent and increased investment, a reasonable response from the politicians might be a shrug of besuited shoulders and the comment, ‘How can we when you don’t know what you want?’

What a waste of time, effort and hope. Why, despite no discernible change in the GP landscape, have yesterday’s radical and persuasive demands become yesterday’s dumb ideas?

And just in case the squeal of U-turning tyres is deafening you to current developments, a gentle reminder: ironically, we’re back where we started, with talk of industrial action pending a ballot, so long, apparently, as we understand the consequences and are prepared to act in sufficient numbers. So make your mind up soon, before the GPC changes theirs.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex