Say what you like about Jeremy Hunt, but…no, in fact, that’s it. Say what you like about Jeremy Hunt. I fear that, after his latest utterance, he’ll probably deserve it. Just when you thought he’d barked his barkingest proposals, he comes up with another to trump all that have gone before.
Specifically, that older patients with complex health needs will be assigned a single ‘named clinician’ accountable for their care at all times when they are out of hospital. With me so far? Guess what comes next? That named clinician should be the GP.
This has triggered a fairly predictable venting of spleen from our profession, with the above news story prompting a record-level number of comments. And not many are saying: ‘Bravo Mr Hunt.’
I must confess, though, that the story elicited in me not so much a mouth-froth as a wry and slightly smug smile. Because only a few weeks ago I wrote a blog in which I pointed out that the current obsession with changing the GP role insults what we have been doing for the last few years.
And this latest pronouncement from our Health Minister proves I was right – the job of the GP has been poorly understood and completely unappreciated. This new announcement is not, in fact, simply another Huntenable view. Just read the background blurb on vulnerable elderly people which prompted his utterance: ‘There should be someone in primary care who is responsible for ensuring that their care is co-ordinated and proactively managed’. Amazing, innit? Because, as you and I know, it’s an exact statement of the situation as it already stands, and has done for years – and that ‘someone’ is the GP.
What does he think happens to these patients when they’re discharged from hospital? Who does he think gets called to sort out the medication mess they’ve been left in, arrange the nursing and social care that the hospital forgets to tee up, perform the myriad tasks the secondary care team should have done but decide to leave the GP to ‘chase up’, and take on the long term follow up because consultants no longer do that kind of thing?
What this goes to show is that Jeremy Hunt knows sod all about what GPs do. And that explains a lot.