Have you heard of the over-75 health check? I must confess I hadn’t until today. I knew about the unevidenced white elephant that is the over-40 health check, and I knew that every person over 75 in the country is supposed to have a named GP (and boy must that guy be busy, am I right? Try the veal!), but combine the two and I was in the dark.
Well, according to the contract, if requested by a patient over 75 you must ‘provide a consultation in the course of which [you] shall make such inquiries and undertake such examinations as appear to [you] to be appropriate in all the circumstances’. All a bit vague, ain’t it? Could go either, ‘Hello again, Mrs Smith, in the unlikely event you’re hiding any pathology we missed at your diabetes review yesterday, we’ll either pick it up today or at your dementia review tomorrow’ or ‘Hello Mr… Jones, is it? You’ve done well to avoid the doctor for the last thirty years, but by turning up today you’ve inadvertently signed up for a game of Overdiagnosis Russian Roulette in which the odds are somewhat stacked against you’. So far, so blah.
‘I’ll be honest, Pete,’ you may be thinking. ‘I don’t really come here for esoteric examination of contractual minutiae; where are you going with this?’
Patience, gentle reader. So it turns out there’s an online petition with a quarter of a million signatures, demanding regular mandatory driving tests for elderly motorists. Seems reasonable, particularly in the light of tragic accidents like that affecting the petition’s founder. Of course, such testing would require a change in the law, and a huge investment in driving instructors, and administrators, and test centres…if only there was some easier way?
You can see where we’re heading, can’t you?
‘It would be simple and straightforward for anyone over the age of 75 to get their GP, at their annual health check, to certify whether they are still fit to drive,’ says Harriet Harman MP.
And suddenly, what looked to be simply a thinly-disguised grey-vote-magnet, whose main effect was to increase the number of circular discussions based on conflicting Daily Express headlines about the risks and benefits of statins that I’m forced to endure before I finally shuffle into the thanks-for-Brexit-by-the-way-guys demographic myself, has transformed into a potential medicolegal minefield in which I find I’ve been ideally placed™ by a questionably-qualified politician who blithely assumes I can replicate the combined efforts of an optician, audiologist, driving test instructor and DVLA medical advisor in ten minutes at no extra cost.
The list of Things That People Who Don’t Work As GPs Think GPs Have Time To Do continues to grow apace; I can only hope that this ‘simple and straightforward’ proposal is deftly batted away by our representatives, or we’ll soon become all too familiar with the over-75 health check.