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General practice is not a retirement home for hospital physicians

Teetering? Literally on the edge? This might tip you over. In which case, sorry.

According to Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, it would be a really great idea for senior hospital physicians nearing retirement who can’t ‘cope any longer’ with the rigours of hospital medicine to step into general practice to help out.

To quote him, ‘In my personal opinion, that individual, if we could keep them and use them in primary care, would be an absolutely invaluable resource to a big practice. They could work on a much more structured basis, Monday to Friday, nine to five.’

Professor Cumming should be congratulated. Not for his skills in thinking outside the box, but for his ability to go from zero to outrageously insulting within the space of two sentences. That’s a masterstroke of brevity, and for those not quite clear why the average GP is now printing images of the professor to gob on, here’s a brief explanation of what he appears to be saying:

1. Hospital physicians, even knackered ones, could step into a GP practice and function without any problem – GPs aren’t very bright to begin with, so the clapped-out physicians would fit in just fine.

2. They wouldn’t need any special training because, as we all know, general practice isn’t a real specialty.

3. General practice will be quite happy to act as a quasi retirement home for clapped out physicians because, although their work isn’t important, there is a lot of it – so new personnel are always welcome, even if they drool a bit.

4. GPs clock in at nine, clock off at five and gave up weekend work long ago. That’s why they’re not as tired as proper doctors.

The only thing that stopped me literally vomiting my lunch over the Pulse website was something else the Professor said. Specifically, that the increase in the number of GP trainees applying for this year’s third GP training recruitment round might be attributable to the ‘controversial’ marketing campaign Health Education England is running. You remember, the video where we sell the profession to eager young recruits on the basis of our ability to sign a ‘Fit to skydive’ form and then forget to charge a fee.

It could be that, professor, couldn’t it? But it isn’t. I’m certain of that. What I’m less certain of is where knackered chief executives get put out to grass. Anyway, you’re welcome at my practice. Oh, actually, you’re not.

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