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Thirty-nine weeks ’til I retire



It hasn’t taken long to destroy the NHS. The whole organisation is beginning to crack up, and the more perceptive among us have noticed.

The NHS was an organisation that was a post-war social experiment to have a health service that was free to all users and paid for out of a general tax, according to people’s ability to pay. For the best part of 50 years it was cheaper and better than most healthcare systems in the world. I was proud to work in a system that treated an unemployed man exactly the same as a barrister. I guess it was socialism at work.

The rot set in, as it did with most public services, under Margaret Thatcher. She did not value this system and set about trying to change it. Further governments – those of Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron – have all continued this process seamlessly.

We will see, within the next few years, multi-tiered healthcare with private providers concentrating on areas of maximum profit and all the talented graduates going where the money is. We can already see attempts to destroy national pay rates, along with efforts to give doctors’ jobs and responsibilities to less qualified and less well-paid staff.

There is also an ongoing assault on the medical profession by the media, with the usual right-wing cheerleaders for the government to the fore. Combined with an eight-year pay freeze, the campaign has made many doctors disgruntled and disheartened.

This has been encapsulated by a comment made by my partner, who teaches fourth-year medical students. He tells them: ‘Get your basic qualifications, and then head abroad as fast as you can – there is no good future for you in the UK.’

Are these simply the comments of an exhausted middle-aged man? He has another 12 years to go before he retires.

I don’t think it’s just my colleague who’s disenchanted by the current state of things. The patient panel in my practice has put a little note in their newsletter to prepare people for my retirement. The first comment I usually get is that I’m not allowed to retire.

‘You’ve been my GP for more than 30 years, what am I going to do?’ they ask. This usually quickly followed by: ‘I don’t blame you, doc, you deserve it.’

Who can I blame for what’s happening to the NHS? It is too easy to blame the politicians, but nevertheless I shall. The blame lies squarely with their well-intentioned – but blunderingly naïve – reforms. Whenever I hear the word ‘reform’ used in this context, I want to reach for my Smith & Wesson. The roll call of idiots in the Department of Heath is a long and inglorious one.

Equally culpable are those high up in the profession who have allowed the Government to proceed without pointing out the consequences. The list is long and vainglorious, headed by Messrs Donaldson and Darzi. If you need to point the finger at the profession, it is easy to pick out those who have helped this process – they’ve all received honours from a grateful Government.

In this post, I have acted like a latter-day Demosthenes, ranting my angry Philippic at today’s Phillip of Macedon – and I feel a great deal better for it.

The Jobbing Doctor is a general practitioner in a deprived urban area of England