In a previous post, I commented that three weeks is a long time in politics. That’s now down to 16 seconds. Because that’s the time Mr Cameron took, the other day, to offend, outrage and alienate the nation’s GPs.
The precise words he used in his speech to launch the white paper, ‘Open public services’ , are probably already branded indelibly on your cerebral cortex. But if, somehow, you missed all the excitement, here they are, verbatim: ‘People with money can get friendly with their local GP at a dinner party, maybe see them out-of-hours if there’s an emergency…in this world of restricted choice and freedom, it’s the poorest who lose out.’
As a result, Pulse’s forum is frothing with fury, with respondents understandably having problems working out how to prioritise their anger. We GPs haven’t the time/energy/inclination/money/social clout for dinner parties! We’d never be stupid enough to offer some back-scratchy OOH arrangement!! We would never socialise with our patients!!! Doing a friend a favour doesn’t compromise anyone else’s care!!!! Most of our patients are on benefits, not Beaujolais!!!!!
And so on and so forth. But as far as I’m concerned, the key – and most offensive – words in that soundbite are those at opposite polarities of the financial spectrum: ‘Money’ and ‘poorest’. Because the anachronistic, high-handed and patronising implication is that only the highly solvent socialise and develop mutually supportive networks and that, if you’re not part of this class-based club, you’re left to flounder and die. This is, of course, utter crap and says more about Mr Cameron himself than the services he’s supposedly shaping.
And what it says is that it’s hard to take seriously even 16 seconds of his views on running a country when he so obviously lives on another planet. Big society? High society, more like.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex