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Y’all gonna love UK general practice

God Bless America. We import their automobiles, fizzy drinks and even their coffee shops. And now a CCG has had the bright idea of shipping over physician associates to plug gaps in the primary care workforce.

NHS Leicester City CCG is spending £600,000 on bringing over 10 US-trained physician associates to work in local GP practices, in a bid to address its recruitment crisis.

You may recall this is the same CCG that piloted a scheme to give ‘golden hellos’ worth £20,000 to new GPs who agreed to work in the city. Turns out that didn’t work as well as expected, and now they have turned to the global market.

The CCG will pay the salaries of the physician associates for the first three years, but individual practices will have to pick up costs for the following two years, the Leicester Mercury reported.

Chair Professor Azhar Farooqi said the CCG had been forced to go west because there were only 250 associates in the UK, whereas the US has a ‘ready supply’.

Good for them. Although Sick Notes wonders how these imports will get on once they realise they are providing a free-at-the-point-of-abuse service and their MRI referral for a patient with a split lip is refused.

The ‘new deal’ for GPs was all over the news last month, with the health secretary’s speech beamed live from a practice in south London on the Pulse website.

The live feed was cut by Department of Health officials as Jeremy Hunt offered to take unscheduled questions from GPs. Luckily a Pulse reporter had his tape-recorder running when Mr Hunt mentioned some ‘flexibility’ around the Tories’ manifesto pledge of 5,000 new GPs.

This is no particular surprise to Sick Notes, as general practice faces a huge retirement bulge and is struggling to attract trainees, but it was a rare slip-up from a usually slick politician, and briefly sent the DH into a tailspin.

‘We didn’t hear it,’ a DH press officer claimed after Pulse sought clarification. On being played the recording, the spin-doctor blurted: ‘It is out of context’, and when told Mr Hunt was answering a specific question on how he planned to boost GP numbers, the official resorted to the PR version of humming and sticking your fingers in your ears: ‘No further comment’.

You may think NHS England executives are gambling with the future of the health service. And at their most recent board meeting it did seem as though they were. A Pulse reporter was jolted out of semi-slumber while watching the official live feed from the meeting when it was interrupted by online betting ads.

This did enliven the tedious snooze-fest that is the bi-monthly summit, but NHS England was quick to clarify that it was a mistake and Simon Stevens had not been replaced by Paddy Power.

Shame. Sick Notes quite fancied a flutter on Barbara Hakin using ‘new care models’, ‘personalised care’ and ‘transformation’ in the same sentence.

Still, for former NHS England high rollers, life beyond the executive gravy train can be unforgiving. Former head honcho Sir David Nicholson continues to occupy himself as best he can, but the pain of missing out on those board meetings must be almost overwhelming.

Previously, Sir David has been spotted by Sick Notes on a beach in Brazil with his suit on and last month, the old dinosaur tweeted that he had been organising his record collection. ‘That’s the vinyl in alphabetical order, from ABC to Yes. Now the CDs.’ Cue the violins.

Watch out for Public Health England’s next campaign, after a recent article in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry highlighted the damage skinny jeans can do to nerve and muscle fibres.

Doctors described the case of a 35-year old woman who arrived at hospital after helping a relative move house, having spent many hours squatting down to empty cupboards while wearing tight denims.

Later, she experienced numbness and, difficulty walking. Her calves were so swollen that her jeans had to be cut off.

Sick Notes advises practices to prepare themselves for posters saying: ‘Moved house recently? Unusual chafing lasting more than 24 hours? See your GP.’

A private health companyrecently sent a press release claiming six million British people were living with back pain, but did not have a diagnosis. This could cause ‘extreme anxiety’ it explained.

Now call Sick Notes heartless, but it is not that hard to work out, is it?

PR fail of the month. ‘Stay Fit. Have an affair.’ Nuff said.

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He stays in his room all the time. He doesn’t speak to us anymore. He doesn’t eat with us. It’s not right. (Illustration: Dr Fiona Macay)