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So there I was, the other week at Pulse LIVE, dimly aware that Babylon – of ‘GP at Hand’ app infamy – had a stand somewhere or other. And I was also dimly aware of a headline I’d read about GP campaigners staging a protest against Babylons’s GP at hand app. Which is why I conflated the two and decided that, instead of joining the coffee queue, I’d look for the nearest mob, knowing that would lead me to GP at Hand where, presumably, it would all be kicking off.
And I was right, but for the wrong reason. The campaign was actually at some other time at some other place (Thursday, Tower Hamlets). But there was a mob: of doctors showing a distinct interest in what Babylon had to offer and a distinct disinterest in any of the well-aired ethical reservations over the concept.
So I observed in a smug, detached kind of way. Yeah, OK, so the pay is good. And that job flexibility does look attractive. And, hmmm, those medico-legal fears do evaporate when you discover that your defence subs are paid. And…err…it was at this point that I found myself swept up, almost against my will, dragged by the current of curiosity out into the deep water of the stand and its representatives, right in front of the final inducement: private healthcare for me and my family.
Opting for private healthcare would mean me dying of irony overload
Now, why would I, a GP of 30 years NHS service, have any interest in private healthcare, something I’ve always viewed with suspicion, contempt or outright loathing? No reason at all. None. So what if I’m older now and therefore increasingly aware of my own morbidity and mortality? So what that I want quick and efficient healthcare, if needed, for me and my family? So what if my few recent personal interactions involving the NHS, and my daily professional molar-grinding engagement with it, do not actually inspire me with the confidence that I’m going to get out of it anything like I’ve put in? In other words, apart from the fact that, taking all this into consideration, free private healthcare looks irresistibly attractive, what is the attraction?
Besides, the paradox of me spending my entire working life in the in the NHS and then, when push comes to shove, opting for private healthcare would almost certainly mean me dying of irony overload. Though I’m betting it would be diagnosed quicker than under the NHS.
So I said thanks for the free tote bag, but no thanks. My soul remains unsold. Mind you, if they’d offered to pay my travel…
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex