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Mrs May was spot on with her comments

Hard-wired GP

Luke Koupparis

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

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speech bubble_shutterstock_556664650.jpgBefore I get lynched for my title, I should explain. The Prime Minister clearly wanted to deflect the increasing pressure she was under over the crisis consuming A&E to someone else.

It worked for a short period of time so that’s what I meant by her being spot on. I think it is what is called the “dead cat strategy”, an insulting diversion to take the heat out of the main issue at hand.

The statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office at Number 10 Downing Street said it was concerned that not all GP practices were providing extended opening hours, despite having been given extra funding to do so and that it was considering taking steps to tackle this which included reducing funding.

Her statement, that this was all the fault of GPs and that working 8 til 8 seven days a week would solve the problem, has rightly caused a furore from just about anyone with an ounce of knowledge of how the health service works.

However, it had a very limited effect to deflect the crisis, but has simply resurfaced with renewed energy. Dr Mark Porter, the BMA chair of council, has written to Mrs May expressing his horror at her position and asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the way forward. Sarah Wollaston, conservative MP, also hit back at her boss’ comments, demanding an apology from her.

In my clinic yesterday, I actually had patients asking me why GPs were being blamed for the hospital crisis and how offering routine GP appointments seven days a week would help this. Clearly, my patients understand the difference between chronic care in the community and acute care that is clogging up the hospitals. It was a serious mistake to have made this comment from her leadership position, displaying a patent lack of understanding of both why people attend hospital and how to motivate frontline staff to get the most out of them.

Scapegoating GPs for this issue will further serve to reduce the morale and goodwill provided by them each and every day for the health service. Perhaps this is part of the bigger plan, to starve general practice of new recruits and slowly drive the service into the ground, so that a new salaried service can emerge with the Government firmly in control. With the relentless news of doctors leaving the profession or leaving the country, this plan may actually be working.

The comments were made for GPs to react to in an angry way, but my view is that we just shouldn’t respond in this way. The response to her statement should be clear professional evidence as to why she is wrong and why blackmailing GPs to spread the service more thinly over seven days is not the answer to the crisis. It is time to fight back at misleading sound bites like this and push politicians to start talking about how we fund the NHS service we actually want.

So maybe Mrs May’s comment will help to force this discussion and enable us to have a mature plan for what the health service can deliver for the money we put in. If we wish to have the world class quality health service able to meet the demands of an increasingly elderly population, then something has to give and pushing the staff to breaking point is not a sustainable, long-term option.

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Luke Koupparis

Luke is a general practitioner in the Bristol area with interests in men's health, child health, minor surgery, online education and medical information technology. He is the IT lead for Bristol clinical commissioning group. He also works as the medical editor to OnMedica helping to deliver high quality, peer reviewed information to the wider medical community. In his spare time he is a keen road cyclist.

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