A two hour meeting that began at 7pm was never going to get a queue of GPs clamouring to attend. But, with CQC registration around the corner, we had to do something to re-animate our inert patient participation group. So we advertised for patients, and got it organized – and it turned out to be rather wonderful.
If there is hope, it lies in the patients. Nobody outside of medicine is going to take the threats of workload and box-ticking culture seriously, if only clinicians are seen to be flagging them up. Perhaps this is understandable – after all, no industry welcomes external scrutiny and impositions. Most people in most jobs think they’re overworked. Why should our carping be treated as anything other than inevitable, the predictable discontent to be expected from any group of workers undergoing enforced change?
Maybe we had an unusually insightful group of patients that evening. They asked questions which really deserve to be asked, and answered, in the public domain: How can you still concentrate and make good decisions in your 12th consecutive unbroken hour? Why do your QOF points count for so much, when they might be nothing to do with what the patient came in for?
They suggested workable ideas for improvements in access to appointments, and changes to the structure of our clinics. We had feared it might degenerate into a forum for sharing individual grievances and complaints. But in fact, they wanted to use the group to take some of the pressure off us.
As a profession, we have legitimate concerns about the direction of the NHS, which go far deeper than self-interest, but we have failed to communicate them effectively. I wonder if we are overlooking a huge resource, hidden in plain sight in our surgery waiting rooms. Perhaps our negotiations with the Government need the service of an advocacy group, made up of patients, who can voice concerns whilst staying immune from allegations of professional partisanship. They have as much, if not more, at stake.
Dr Nick Ramscar is a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire