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What would Sir Alan do?

I don’t know about you but I’m a big fan of The Apprentice. This show has been running for more than 10 years and yet the candidates continue to make the same fatal errors of failing to work out profit margins or miscalculating demand. But the tasks are beginning to get a little repetitive so the show really needs a twist.

The first task hinges on maintaining as many customers as possible without seeing them

And what better way of doing this than signing them all up as independent contractors of the NHS? This should be a real test of resilience and entrepreneurialism. General practice – all the negatives of running your own business, with none of the perks.

First, the candidates will need a crash course on how the NHS works. Although there are some choosy customers out there who are more than happy to make a complaint, seeing more of them doesn’t increase profitability. In fact it does the opposite and the first task hinges on maintaining as many customers as possible without seeing them. Some of the more perceptive boys in Team Revive lead their team to victory by marketing their business in Milton Keynes and signing up commuters who will be in London for 12 hours a day.

The next task (which is Sir Alan’s favourite) is about maintaining profits when expenses are rising. Sir Alan loves the fact that it reminds him of his market stall days when his rent was doubled to two shillings a week but he still made a tidy profit. This task is a real gem for testing blue-sky thinking in an environment of rising rents, indemnity fees and staff expenses following the introduction of the national living wage.

Cara, project manager for the girls’ team Nurture, bases her strategy on the fact that corporation tax is due to be slashed so she meets her end in the boardroom. Sir Alan had high hopes for Cara and is disappointed about her failure to grasp the basics: an NHS general practice is not a limited company that pays business tax, but an organisation where the partners pay top-rate personal income tax in return for limitless liabilities.

We reach the ruthless interview. The candidates are put through the mill with interviewers from the RCGP and CQC. Party animal Gary is disqualified for using the postnominals MRCGP after his name when he is not paying his annual subs. And the conscientious Lucy is caught out for denying she ate her cheese sandwich at the keyboard, but crumbs are picked up by ultra-violet light examination. 

In the final stages, the remaining three candidates face their toughest challenge yet. Against all the odds, they have managed to maintain their profits, despite being unable to pass any of their rising costs to customers. But it is the last hurdle that finally breaks them.

Although their customer base is rising exponentially, Sir Alan expects them to reach 100% customer satisfaction without employing new staff. This is too much even for Phil, an ex-Navy SEAL, who has spent time in Kandahar and Beirut. For the first time in the history of the show, the candidates turn on Sir Alan, point a finger at him, and say:

‘You’re fired!’

Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol