As of today, I am no longer Dr Deveson. Jeremy Hunt has demanded we stop using our surnames at work, and you can understand why; if I’d been unfortunately spoonerised on national TV as often as he has, I’m sure I’d be saying the same thing. But the erstwhile hulture secretary has a less selfish motivation for wanting your local hospital’s consultant directory to read like the Brazilian national teamsheet; it’s apparently all part of a drive to reduce medical errors in hospital.
‘It is one of the only professions where we are talking about “Mr this” and “Dr that” rather than first-name terms,’ explained the Right Honourable Member of Parliament for South West Surrey.
This campaign displays the hallmark signs of Mr Hunt’s many previous crusades; allowing him to posture as the heroic new broom sweeping clean, providing him a clinical stick with which to beat the workforce while brushing the multiple failings in the NHS for which a Health Secretary might reasonably be held responsible under the carpet. Its aims may be laudable, but past experience leaves me somewhat cynical about the likely outcomes.
Remember his plans to cure dementia by 2020? (No? Well, give it another two years and you just might… #bdumtish!) Or what about promising to foster a learning culture in the NHS, only to see his former advisor Charlie Massey take over at the GMC and punish a doctor’s clinical errors with erasure from the register, going directly against the organisation’s own regulator and putting the kibosh on duty of candour? And that’s before we get on to the 5,000 GPs…
I wonder why I bother, especially when you remember what happens to doctors who prescribe too late
Those 5,000 nameless (well, surnameless anyway) new recruits will have their own role to play in Mr Hunt’s safety revolution; GP prescribing is to come under renewed scrutiny, and the first order of business is antibiotics, of which one fifth are said to be prescribed inappropriately.
Of course, ‘inappropriateness’ is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had my life saved by antibiotics and I want them to be around in 30 years’ time to enable my future joint replacements, so I’m usually quite happy to play Batman to the hordes of pharyngitic Robins in my waiting room. But then I look at the Government promoting the use of remote smartphone consultation with doctors whose antibiotic stewardship seems to be modelled on Oprah Winfrey’s attitude to car keys (‘You get augmentin! You get augmentin! Everybody gets augmentin!’) and I wonder why I bother, especially when you remember what happens to doctors who prescribe too late.
So occasionally, the pressure to bypass a tedious complaint-generating stand-off and get home to my kids on time by slipping a demanding punter a conflict-resolving placebo script for Clearoffromycin or Scrampicillin can be very hard to resist.
But I’ll do my best in this campaign, until Mr Hunt’s next brainwave comes along, and it gets quietly forgotten. Meanwhile, just call me Pete…
Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey