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It’s an emergency – but I don’t know who to call



Look, for three whole days I’ve resisted making the bleeding obvious joke, in the expectation that one of the 15 (so far) comments would make it for me. But they haven’t, so I will. Cue big breath and resigned expression. Apparently, the NHS England chief has confirmed that the fire service is to carry out thousands of health checks while doing regular safety checks in people’s homes.

Pause. So now I know who to call next time I’ve got a toddler who’s burning up. Budum chink. And, why stop there? I could call the police for someone with a violent headache. The coastguard for a woman who’s flooding. Mountain rescue for a dement who’s wandering. And an ambulance for…oh no, wait, that doesn’t work.

Joking aside (that was what was happening there), we may well need the help of the emergency services if Jezza’s plans for eight to eight, seven days a week opening come to fruition. Every pronouncement – and there are plenty – seem to make it more of a reality, albeit the type of reality that is being made-up-as-it-goes-along.

But his last statement was particularly chilling. In case you missed it, the Health Secretary suggested that, to quote the Pulse story, ‘It will fall on GP practices to ensure their patients can book routine GP appointments 8am-8pm, seven days a week by 2020 – even if they do not provide it themselves.’

Hmm, let’s think about that. If it falls to us, then I assume that’s politicospeak for it becoming a contractual requirement. Interesting. Because then all Mr Hunt has to do is quietly drop the ‘routine’ bit while we’re not looking, create a brief distraction while he confuses the GPC into agreeing that we’ll cover the 8pm to 8am bit too and, ta-da, he’s given us back OOH responsibility.

Call me a catastrophist, but stranger things have happened. Like the fire brigade taking on health checks, for example. Just thinking about this is making me febrile and headachey. Call 999, would you. Which emergency service do I require? I don’t think it matters, does it?

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