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Have I got NEWS2 for you

Every morning, I wake with the joyful realisation that, yes, it is another day, yes, I live in a glorious democracy and yes, I’m employed as an independent contractor in the world’s greatest health service! Then I think ‘oh f**k, I’ve got to go to work.’

Which means, of course, a dose of Brexit-induced inglorious undemocratic soundbites via the car radio, followed by a day of micromanaged madness at an increasingly bleak coalface.

And if you need examples of the latter, of how ‘GP independence’ is becoming as risible a concept as the ‘democratic process’, you need look no further than two recent Pulse headlines, separated by 24 hours only because the Pulse editor correctly realised that splashing them on the same day might push us over the edge.

First, we had ‘GPs asked to proactively contact patients taking fluoxetine to avoid shortages’.

This tells you everything you need to know about this story, except why these stupid shortages are happening; why they are my responsibility to sort out; why the Department of Health and Social Care is making a particularly big deal about fluoxetine when with every other drug shortage we’ve simply muddled through; why this diktat can’t be directed to pharmacists, rather than GPs; and why they are specifically engendering anxiety in a group of anxious patients by implying that the drug they take for their anxiety may be unavailable?

Why is the Department of Health and Social Care making a particularly big deal about fluoxetine, when with every other drug shortage we’ve simply muddled through? 

Then we had ‘GPs requesting ambulance will have to provide a score of level of emergency’. Now, I have to be honest, the NEWS2 score was news to me.

And sure, there may be some merit in an objective measure of acute illness severity.

But this still feels like yet another example of GP judgement and experience being sacrificed in favour of an imposed deconstruction and arbitrary standardisation of our job, with the implicit threat that, if we can’t/won’t jump through this latest hoop, then some ambulance control admindroid might downgrade our call.

And it feels like it because it is.

Look, people, which bit of ‘independent contractor’ do you not understand? Stop telling us what to do, especially when that telling just involves a top-down reorganisation of what we’ve already been doing for years, only better.

In fact, stop dictating our jobs, but start doing yours. Because if you want to know my prognosis on the current state of democracy, well, have I got a NEWS2 score for you.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at or follow him on Twitter @doccopperfield