24 February 2008

Why does the Sunday Times bludgeon doctors?

There's no doubt that doctors feel under assault. In the doctors' private chat rooms the ill feeling towards the government is palpable. The latest assault on GPs over their hours is just one example of many orchestrated attacks on the profession. What has been puzzling Dr Grumble is why the government should be out to get us. You cannot expect to achieve much in the NHS if you set out to hack off the key people you need for an improved service. Dr Grumble has twice now heard the Chief Executive of the NHS say how much can be achieved if you get doctors onside. Perhaps he can see the problems the government is creating.

Could it be that the government is trying to deflect its own inadequacies onto the staff of the NHS? To take just one example, it's plain that even NHS managers seem convinced that MRSA is a problem of the doctors' making and fail to recognise that bad management leading to too few side rooms, ludicrous bed occupancies and beds in general wards and even high dependency units shoehorned into tiny spaces has anything to do with it. If managers genuinely think this way, and they seem to, maybe the public is also taken in. Yet the public trust their doctors and are more likely to believe them than politicians or managers which makes the whole idea of constantly attacking doctors unwise, foolhardy even.

Another thing that Dr Grumble finds puzzling is that the government tends to talk down the NHS when they could be talking it up. Is the intention to soften people up for the privatisation that is on its way?

Dr Grumble still maintains that what the NHS really needs is funding to match that of similar nations. And perhaps bludgeoning doctors is the government's way of trying to get doctors to shoulder the blame for the inadequacies of the NHS. Perhaps then nobody will notice that spending on health in the UK is still lagging behind spending in other countries. The latest figures Dr Grumble can find are below. The curves look essentially parallel. We are just not catching up at all.

On the back of this manufactured failure of our National Health Service there is a concerted attempt to break up general practice as we know it in order to allow big business to muscle in and make big profits for shareholders. Examples of this are walk-in centres and private contractors bidding for local practices. Big business is waiting in the wings to replace the personal, high quality service we all know.

The personal nature of general practice is at risk. GPs know their patients, their problems and how they fit into their patient’s lives. Your GP may have been your doctor since you were a baby. He may well also be your children's doctor. He is your advisor, counsellor, confidante, advocate and friend. This personal relationship will not be possible with the new supermarket-type of GP the government seems to want.

Dr Grumble does not think this is what the public wants. And it baffles him that this is what the government wants. Next year will be the crucial year for ordinary people to fight for the National Health Service they love. But Dr Grumble thinks that within ten years general practice in the UK will go private. Some think it will be sooner. Unilaterally rewriting the GP contract is just the beginning.

This was first posted on 23rd December 2007 under the title Why does the government bludgeon doctors? Dr Grumble was moved to republish it as a result of being wound up by the continuing attack on doctors in some of this Sunday's papers. Journalists are lazy people who will readily write the story they are given rather than the one they should be writing. A top medical journalist has told Dr Grumble that some of the top papers are in hock to the government so there is more to this than just journalistic idleness. And that makes it even worse. Anyway Dr Grumble's famous informant (and you will all have heard of him or her) recommended a book to explain how it all works. Unfortunately Dr G did not have a pen with him but he thinks it might have been The Triumph of the Political Class by Peter Oborne. Has anybody out there read it?


Dr Grumble said...

And, yes, there's no link to the Sunday Times. The article is just not worth reading.

Anonymous said...

The journalist concerned has a reputation for inaccuracy.

Anonymous said...

The government agenda is clear - if they remove the relative autonomy of GPs under the present system and only use medical staff as employees in polyclinics they will not have to worry about "getting the doctors onside". They will have complete control over them. The extended hours row is a smokescreen. The real objective can be seen in the announcing of polyclinics before the GPs even have a ballot (er sorry "poll"!) on the government's generous offer. They picked a fight to divert attention from the main war. GPs must fight the war in public. Patients must be told what they stand to lose, as loudly and as plainly as possible. And if the GPC and the BMA and the RCGP will not stand up for their members how about a new organisation REMEDYGP anyone?

Dr Snuggles said...

The Times, the Guardian, the 'Independent' and the BBC are all IMO in hock to the Government. All have run biased anti-GP articles time and again. The Telegraph is the only decent paper without an axe to grind on GPs.

'Softening up for privatisation' is exactly what is going on. The public are either unaware, or not bothered.

Semi anonymous said...

We miss you and miss your 'originality' Dr Grumble


Anonymous said...

Dr G have you seen this clip? I don't think it works on a Mac but I may be wrong.