Imagine if Jeremy Hunt had written a book for the famous Dummies instruction/reference franchise.
Its catchy title, Running the NHS for Dummies, would be required reading for all up-and-coming NHS managers. The usual “Dummies Man” cartoon character on the front would probably bear a striking resemblance to the incumbent Secretary of State for Health.
The chapter on primary care would be promoted as a model for other countries to follow as – after all, he’s already said that our primary care service is the “jewel in the crown” of the NHS.
The section on political game play and primary care would probably go something like this: “The dummy move to fixing the primary care problem should be cunningly disguised as a new contract, offering the three motivational factors of Money, Manpower and Morale. It’s bound to go down well with the public.
“It’s advisable to have a high-profile political figure announce such momentous strategies, and to do so at a time when most of the target audience will be at work, too busy to respond directly – for example on a Friday morning.
“The skilful manipulation of facts to put us in a good light is standard practice, as much of the money has already been pledged, the manpower projections are a fudge and do nothing to alleviate current pressures.
“Meanwhile, our hollow words recognising the hard work GPs do will be interpreted by the press as compassionate and understanding on our parts but will feel like an old rusty proctoscope with inadequate lubrication to the GPs parts, especially when they realise they’re getting the 24-hour contract back with no extra money.
“Add to this the anticipated ineffectual response to the plan by their so-called leaders and we as a Government have a winning game plan. The media will paint a picture of a magnanimous minister offering an olive branch to ungrateful lazy GPs as they abandon the NHS. They will be pilloried by the public and accused of leaving their patients high and dry.
“At that point, we can step in and save the day with our Plan B (actually Plan A) of scrapping independent contractor status for GPs and employing salaried doctors and nurses to work 24/7 in CCG primary care centres around the country (and if it all goes wrong we can blame the CCGs).
“We’ll save no end of money until we’re rumbled and patients will love it as they’ll be able to access primary care whenever and wherever they want.
“We’ll have to be careful and downplay the fact that there won’t actually be any GPs, of course. The NHS will still be the envy of the world, though the primary care jewel in the crown will need a lot of PR polishing to keep it shiny…”
Though this book is fictitious in my mind I’m worried it isn’t in Hunt’s. Come to think of it, maybe some of GPs’ leaders should write a book? They could call it How to Stop Dummies Ruining the NHS. Now that might be worth reading – provided one of them has the gonads to write it, of course.
Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.