19 May 2007

The cost of medical care for a hamster

How much should GPs get paid compared with, say, vets? They plainly get less - or so Dr Grumble thinks. Dr Grumble knows quite a few GPs and he has been in their homes. Mostly they are very modest. He knows where his vet lives (Mrs Grumble once had 22 pets to care for). He has not been in the vet's house. It's up a very long drive and there are big electric gates at the end. There's usually building work going on there - new swimming pools, that sort of thing. It's very grand.

Dr Grumble has only been to the vets' practice once. Mrs Grumble goes quite often. But once it was urgent so Dr Grumble had to go. As regular readers might know, Dr Grumble used to work for the military. Some years ago an ex-SAS man, hired to do some work in the former Yugoslavia, asked Dr Grumble to look after his dog while he was away. Now you might expect an SAS soldier to have a decent dog, something big, perhaps the sort of mutt a skinhead might have in tow. But no. This SAS man had a Norfolk terrier. And it had its own toothbrush!

A Norfolk terrier.

Needless to say the pooch duly arrived - along with a sponge bag and the toothbrush. Now there was no way Dr Grumble was going to clean its teeth - despite the canine halitosis. But, other than that, Dr Grumble felt that he had a duty of care to this apology of a dog. So when one day Dr Grumble noticed that the dog had rigors he thought he had better get the creature to the vet before it, well, died. Dr Grumble described the signs and thought that the vet would do the rest. He wasn't going to tell the vet that he thought the dog obviously had pus somewhere. But the vet, the one with the very big house, just reassured Dr Grumble. 'Little dogs do shiver a lot,' he said. A morning delayed to work and somebody else's sick dog on his hands - Dr Grumble was not happy. Needless to say the unfortunate dog had pus in its anal glands. Mrs Grumble took him back and found a vet that would listen. One quick squeeze and the pus was ejected. The mutt was then as right as rain. Next time Dr Grumble will do it himself.

A good squeeze puts them right.

Now what has all this got to do with how much GPs get paid? Well how much do you think your GP gets paid for looking after you compared with how much your vet gets paid for looking after your hamster? The answer is given by Dr Prit Buttar in today's Telegraph. Here's what he has to say:
Per patient, per year, I am paid approximately £50, regardless of how many times I see them. That's a year's unlimited cover. The cheapest policy I could find for pet insurance - for a hamster - was £65 a year, plus £50 excess. So your health care costs less than your pet rodent's. GPs are excellent value for money.

Mrs Grumble used to be a GP. The figure has gone up a lot since then. But it's still only a modest sum.

By the way the vets around here are doing so well they have bought a vineyard. You can read about this in Dr Grumble's first ever post [Well you can't any more. Several people identified Dr G from this naive start to the blog so it is now offline.]


Unknown said...

You want to work like vets, live by the market, die by the market, lose patients to a cheaper -- and equally good -- practice just one mile away? Perhaps you do. Would you also want your patients to be subject to the vagaries of private insurance companies? Don't you think you might have to set up something like the PDSA?


oh wait; we have the NHS...


Veterinary surgeons...

* Range of typical starting salaries:£14,850-£26,920.This can go up to £69,726.
* Because most veterinary practices provide a 24-hour service,veterinary surgeons can expect to work a rota system and will rarely work a nine-to-five day.This can affect social life.


Anonymous said...

Doctor Grumble doesn't mean to attack vets, he just wants to highlight the liitle money GPs get per patient from the NHS; a misre £50 note per annum regardless of how many times GPs see a patient.

Dr Xavier Ray said...

Apologies in advance for lifting this from my blog but I couldn't be arsed to type it all again:

Vets are skilled, dedicated professionals, who have been selected for university degrees from among the brightest of our school leavers and undergone rigorous and demanding training. In a free market, they deserve whatever they are paid. So would doctors in a free market. Looking at the USA, it would probably be more than they are currently paid. The truth is that having the same monopoly acting as employer, provider of facilities, regulator of trainee and job numbers and regulator of income has actually held back doctors wages. Perhaps the USA is not typical one might argue. After all UK doctors are the best paid in Europe. They may well be but there is also government interference in healthcare in Europe and perhaps a more valid comparison would be with those other bright and hardworking individuals working at the pinnacle of free markets - the City, where a fund manager with say 15-20 years experience, if he still needed to be at work, would consider a GPs or Consultants annual wage no more than lunch money.

Anonymous said...

Two points, if I may: first, doctors, unlike vets, generally need to deal with only one species, so could be regarded as less highly skilled; second, I only pay for my vet's services when I'm using them, whereas my GP has been claiming £50 pa under false pretences - I doubt I've seen him half a dozen times in the past thirty years.

Dr Xavier Ray said...

I doubt I've seen him half a dozen times in the past thirty years.
Would that be 30 human years or 30 ass years?

Anonymous said...

I am a sort of Mrs Grumble too, and my husband's generation of doctors are far less affluent than those of the previous one (or even those a decade or so older). We certainly couldn't afford a vineyard, but live in a nice, pretty average neighborhood alongside electricians and lawnmowing men, and drive a Fiat and an aging Ford.

In our early years, after my Dr Grumble graduated, we knew a husband and wife, both veterinary surgeons, who happened to have the same first names as us. It was interesting to mark their progress. They bought a mansion in an expensive riverside suburb, drove flash cars and set up their own practise. Eventually they bought a few acres a little further out, to give their kiddies ponies. They live like royalty.

Vets I know don't get out of bed at night - the training University has an all-night clinic for emergencies, and the vets simply list this on their after-hours message.

Winegrowing in the SW of Western Australia was started by a GP and his wife in the mid 1960s. In the following years many doctors bought vineyards. But that was before medicare and before insurance-liability ballooned. Nowadays I expect only specialists and veterinary surgeons could buy in.

Harvey said...

Vets have to run a practice as do dentists in the private sector. They have to engage with the public and provide a first class service vis a vis times and running late. If they don't then the public will and do move to another provider. With GP we can't do that..it is very difficult to find another local GP who is accepting patients. Also hoe many vets have 3,000- 4,000 clients signing up to this insurance to provide a salary as good as GP's receive.
GP's receive a good salary commensurate with the amount of training,stress and hard work they have to endure

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