Standing Together to Defend the NHS

Primary Care

Again General Practitioners have been accused of being responsible for the difficulties in the NHS.  This week the problems facing accident and emergency have been attributed to the out of hours opt out in the 2004 GP contract.  In my previous article I explain that this is not the case, as the number of attendances has been relatively stable and only rising 1 -2% as expected with an aging population.

The buck should not stop with the GPs.  Look at the facts.  The success of NHS direct was replaced with the disastrous 111 service, a failing from the top, nothing to do with GPs.  If the government think that it is all the fault of GPs then why have they given them the pivotal role in NHS though the Health and Social Care Act?  Piling more administrative responsibilities onto GPs will not do anything to help patient care.  There is already a shortage of GPs who are overworked, patients will attest to the fact that they cannot easily get appointments.  Some GPs are already cutting back on their commissioning roles to focus on what they were trained on –  treating patients.  This is not the fault of GPs, it is the consequence of poor workforce and strategic planning which is ultimately the responsibility of the Government.

I believe the true reason behind making GPs the scapegoats is to lay a political trap, which unless recognised will cause great damage within the NHS.  It is an attempt by the government to create infighting within the NHS pitching doctors against doctors, and medics against nurses and other health professionals.  We need to recognise this and stand united against it.

Dr Bernadette Garrihy, from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine appeared on Newsnight on Tuesday and fell into the trap of challenging GPs about their out of hours commitments.  We need to resist the temptation to bash GPs who work hard seeing one million patients a day, preventing hospital admissions and providing very good value for money.  This can be difficult when hospital consultants still work all day and are oncall at night and weekends and see their GP colleagues paid handsomely.  The right outlet for this is when renegotiating contracts, tired healthcare workers whether GPs, consultants or nurses do not make for safe patient care.

A politician attempting to whip up discord between professionals to take the focus off his responsibilities is the lowest form of politics.  This is again a sign that the Conservatives are hell bent on destroying the principles of the NHS.   Their strategy is clear, setting the NHS up to fail and blaming it on GPs absolving the government from responsibility.  And when this happens, what will there solution be?  Privatisation, resulting in two tier health care.

We must remember the greater cause, defending the NHS, a comprehensive service, available to all based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay.  Infighting will only play into the hands of critics, allowing them to argue that the fundamental principles are failing.