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Matt Hancock gave his first interview to Pulse last week – and his first to a trade magazine since the publication of the long-term plan.
There was a lot that we have heard before – over-expectations around technology, a lack of details around how to ease the immediate pressure on GPs and a lack of real solutions to the workforce crisis.
But I did spot some positive signs. His emphasis on the problems with ‘last man standing’ rules, and – more importantly – announcement that he is in discussions with the Treasury over the changes to pensions tax rules in a bid to stop GPs retiring early is, to me, significant. Not because he will be successful: it will be a politically impossible sell that I predict would be opposed by the Treasury before it even gets off the ground, regardless of how sensible it is.
The reason it is positive is that – unlike his predecessor – it seems he is willing to listen to doctors and act, even when it risks a backlash from the public and the media, who would no doubt spin this as tax bribes for wealthy GPs.
Contrast this to Jeremy Hunt, who portrayed himself as the patient’s champion, willing to take on the profession by imposing contracts on GPs, picking a fight with junior doctors and telling GPs they were paying ‘penance’ for the 2004 contract.
It’s true he mellowed his style later towards the end of his tenure, but the fact Mr Hancock seems to be looking for a conciliatory relationship with the profession from the off can only be a good sign.
Of course, I may regret these words very quickly, but we can but hope.
Jaimie Kaffash is Editor of Pulse. You can follow him on Twitter @jkaffash