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Just change the sodding criteria

I’m spoilt for subjects to rant about this month. It’s been a bumper crop of lamentable cock-ups. 

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of four-year servitude for all new medical graduates; the ‘gratitude journal’ from the RCGP to combat burnout; the suggestion from NHS England that all practices do weekly nursing home ward rounds. Rich pickings indeed. 

I simply can’t fathom why we have this situation

But here’s the one that has made me most angry – and despondent. The Pulse investigation that showed funding promised for vulnerable practices in England has been sitting untouched, waiting to be spent for over a year. That’s £10m, allocated to help those struggling to keep afloat, just sitting there doing virtually nothing. 

Compare this with the fact that I have had two emails in the last week from doctors whose practices are being forced to close. Both are facing personal ruin as a result. Both have been told they didn’t fit the criteria for help for a variety of reasons. 

It beggars belief that funding for just these types of practices is not being given out or is being tied up in overly prescriptive criteria. If you are NHS England, the failure of this programme should make you hang your heads in shame.

There is the promise of £40m more in ‘resilience’ funding in the GP Forward View, but the debacle so far won’t fill practices with any confidence that this new scheme will work. 

But surely if you are a politician, this doesn’t make any sense either? Patients (their constituents) are losing access to medical care. This is fixable and funds have already been allocated. 

Why aren’t they putting pressure on to speed things up and solve this?

The situation goes much wider than just this pot of money, of course. But if we can’t help those practices that are already in a state of crisis, we don’t have much hope of propping up the others that are about to topple over the edge. 

I simply can’t fathom why we have this situation. Everywhere I ask, more questions come up. 

‘They sought help too late’ is one response. But is there no way of getting round this? How are practices being contacted about possible support?

‘They don’t fit the criteria’ – well the sodding criteria should change. That practice is CLOSING. Its doctors are going bankrupt. Its patients are losing their GP. 

I naively thought that when I became part of GPC I would be able to find out who makes these decisions. I can’t. If you know, please tell me. 

Whoever it is, I have a bit of advice for you: just get off your office chair and get out to these practices. Look at what they are facing, and sign whatever form needs signing to give them the funds. Common sense has to trump bureaucracy sometimes. This only makes an already precarious situation worse. 

Or even better, give me the funds. I’ll go out and find the practices who need it. A quick scout of Twitter, Facebook or the pages of Pulse would give me the answers. Rocket science it ain’t. 

Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull. You can follow her on Twitter @dr_zo