Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dinner time

So my lovely wife is cooking my dinner. We usually do that together. Why am I not with her in the kitchen?
Because, Mr Cameron, after yet another 12 hour day, I am now at home sorting out paperwork, by remotely accessing the surgery computer system. Don't worry, it is all secure and conforms to the NHS Information Governance arrangements. I'm doing that from home so that I could actually see my kids before they went to bed.
If you think that people will be able to see their GP, or a GP (and incidentally I wish you'd make your mind up because you seem to say the first one when you start, then change tack in the middle of each sentence) from 8-8, 7 days a week, you are frankly deluded.
There are not enough GPs. So that means that patients will NOT be seeing GPs, but other health professionals, nurse, physicians assistants or whoever.
I can't see how you are going to train enough GPs, given that takes as an absolute minimum 5 years from graduation from medical school. There is a looming crisis, over and above the one already happening. Did you know that something like 40% of GPs are over 50? How long do you think they will hang around for? And that thousands of young doctors are emigrating rather than staying here to work in the NHS? Can you think why that may be?
340 MILLION consultations a year in General Practice. Compare that to 40 million in A&E and it kind of puts it in perspective. You want us to do more and more. Fine we can do it, or at least arrange for it to be done, but not without resourcing. The proportion of the NHS budget going into Primary Care has gone from about 10% to less than 8.5% in the last four years. That 1.5% reduction is the equivalent of about £1.5 BILLION quid, very roughly. So how are we to pay for all of this extra stuff? It is certainly doable. But it doesn't come cheap.
And what about premises? If you want us to do these things, provide a new model of out of hospital care, closer to peoples' homes, what are we going to do it in? There has been a de facto moratorium on the revenue needed to fund the extra space that General Practice needs, never mind all this extra stuff. So where are you going to fund that from?
And as for GPs now being in charge of the NHS, local groups making decisions for local health economies... Have you actually seen what is going on? There are so many financial constraints that there is very little flexibility in the system almost everywhere to allow for sensible redesign of systems and services. Yes, yes, I know there are places doing bits and pieces but, and I appreciate you are not of a scientific bent like me, anecdote does not make evidence.
The Commonwealth fund report this year showed we had not only the most efficient but THE BEST health service in the world. About the only thing we could do better is speed up access. Guess what? That requires resources.
Demand is going up and up, inexorably. You can't blame the patients, they expect what you promise them. The problem is, you keep talking about an NHS based on wants, but you then barely fund it enough to cater for the populations needs.
We need as a nation to decide what we want from the NHS. That may be the status quo, which is still going to need more resources given the ageing population etc. It may be that it provides less. Or it may need wholesale change of models of provision but that takes resources and is not without risk.
You need to start engaging with the issues honestly. Except I have no expectation that you or any of your political allies or enemies will do so, as there is an election in a few months and unless you are elected, your promises mean nothing at all.
My dinner is ready now. When I've eaten, I'm going to come back and finish off my paperwork.
Have a pleasant evening.
Russell Brown
GP, Polegate, East Sussex