Monday, November 27, 2006

The BritMeds 2006 (1)

John Crippen has started up a weekly collection of the best of British medical blogs.

Yours truly is mentioned!

Check it out...

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

Hospitals in the South East are being told to delay routine patient appointments for eight weeks, otherwise they will not be paid for them.

Here's the link.

So, fail to achieve government targets and be damned.

Exceed them and be financially crippled (albeit temporarily).

On the other hand, I can see the Strategic Health Authority's point of view: the PCTs have to contract for an amount of "activity" and then pay for anything which exceeds that anyway (under Payment By Results, the national tariff). There's a big deficit heading Patsy's way, and of course she said that she'd take personal responsibility for achieving financial balance. Lets hope she isn't allowed to dodge it.

Although I personally thought that a bit of an oxymoron, a cabinet minister taking personal responsibility for their area of responsibility...

What about the patients? The only people who are talking about them are the consultants. But what do doctors know about health care, hmmm?

And there was me thinking the political silly season had passed already.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Redundant advertising

I read this story a couple of weeks ago. It was also posted in various other places, including the BBC, most of the national press and other media. I didn't comment on it at the time because I thought it pathognomic of the difficulties the NHS is facing, and that further comment was not necessary.

But now we have this.

So lets compare these two stories, shall we?

On the one hand, the NHS workforce has reduced in the last year by about 20,000. There are an indeterminant number of compulsory redundancies, which the Government says are just under a thousand. Yeah, right...

On the other hand, hospitals will now be able to advertise their services. who to? Not to patients, oh no. To doctors. Yes to GPs like me.

But hold on a moment. Don't I already refer to hospitals? Am I not already obliged to refer to someone I at least know of and trust to do the right thing by my patients? To quote paragraph 55 of Good Medical Practice:

Referral involves transferring some or all of the responsibility for the patient's care, usually temporarily and for a particular purpose, such as additional investigation, care or treatment that is outside your competence. You must be satisfied that any healthcare professional to whom you refer a patient is accountable to a statutory regulatory body or employed within a managed environment. If they are not, the transfer of care will be regarded as delegation, not referral. This means you remain responsible for the overall management of the patient, and accountable for your decision to delegate.
My highlighting, by the way.

But the Government is already trying to force me to abrogate my responsibility for ensuring that I know what service my patients can expect with Choose and Book: I can't refer to a named consultant, if I can refer at all!

But back to the point at hand...

So, lots of people out of work (however you want to define it), so cutting costs.

The money saved can now be invested in advertising a hospital's services to the GPs who are already referring to it, likely involving the recruitment of advertising and marketing managers. Of course that means less money for patient care. I suppose the idea is that advertising will increase the number of "service users", thus increasing income under the "Payment by Results" tariff.

What kind of buggered up system is this? That money should go towards patient care.

I'm 36. I can't wait to retire.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Five weeks to go...

There will soon be the patter of tiny feet in Chez Brown.

Mrs B is expanding on a daily basis, I'm sure she will explode soon. The baby likes Strictly Come Dancing, we can tell because she has a dance when its on. My other 2 kids are excited, we have arranged for them to be the first to meet their sibling (after us of course).

I can't wait...

Mind you, we're only just getting organised with baby-grows, nappies, clothes, etc. We were much better organised with our wedding last year at Newick Park.

And I've still got loads of painting to do :-(

I still can't wait to meet the thing that's been booting me in the ear while I'm reading or singing to it.

Of course, we still have to decide on a name...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Spinal Privacy

There is an interesting article in the Guardian today. I suggest you read it. It refers to the security (or otherwise) of the NHS spine, the computer system which is being built to house the medical records of all UK residents.
And therein lies the problem.

Given the Governments track-record on IT projects, given the fact that you can either have a functional or secure system (but for a project this size probably not both) the question you have to ask is:

"Do I really want my personal and confidential details available to any of the 250,000 staff in the NHS who have currently been given smart cards? Oh, and the police, security services, and anyone else who might have the technical skills to hack in or money to buy information from the spine?"

Speaking as a medical professional, I don't.

The Governments constant mantra of reassurance and complacent murmurings that security will be adequate completely fail to make me feel better about the scheme.

For a start, you won't have a choice about whether to be involved or not unless you opt out right at the beginning. Once your info is on the spine, its there in perpetuity (and lets not even start talking about civil liberties and the Data Protection Act).

Sadly, this scheme is just another manifestation of the current Government's inclinations to control us all. There is no safeguard with this. If it is "in the public interest" your records will be viewable by whomsoever the authorities deem. Right now, if the police want me to show them your records, they need to either provide me with your consent (in writing, and even then I usually check with people to make sure they understand what it is they've consented to) or ask a Judge to issue a Court Order (and although it has never happened, I would probably then wish to speak to the Judge myself anyway to clarify what exactly they want to see: it would be most unusual for someone's appendectomy in 1954 to be of any relevance to anything at all, really).

The Guardian also provide a page (here) with a draft letter to the Secretary of State for Health instructing that you don't want your data added to the spine. I will be writing.

The decision whether you should as well is not one I can make for you. But consider carefully before imagining that New Labour will treat your most intimate personal details with the dignity they deserve.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Disclosure statement

After the nonsense about PayPerPost, which although I am not signed up to is still in my view a bloody good idea, I thought a disclosure might be a reasonable idea. This is available for viewing here.

It is also replicated below.

This policy is valid from 02 November 2006

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trust me, I'm a Doctor

Well, it seems people do.

In that case, why don't the politicians listen to us?

Because they want their reforms to go down as an historical achievement.

Great. Dismantling the NHS will be such an achievement, won't it?

I'm a bit busy today, but for invective about politicians generally and the health service in particular, try clicking on some of the links listed over there ->