Blog-post: By Dr Emil Shehadeh
THE government wants GPs to work seven days. Now it has set aside Â£10M to help GPs achieve that target. Seven day opening would cost billions, not millions. It means opening 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday. That is increasing GP access by 40%.
Does anyone in their right mind think that Â£10 M is adequate?! Locally, all we have achieved is to offer each practice list four additional appointments per weekend, that is in the context of some 700 appointments per week. Hardly weekend opening. But the government can kid itself, pat itself on the back and give itself a medal for achieving a target.The word “tokenism” springs to mind
Now they have turned their attention to hospital doctors. I heard Jeremy Hunt take part in a debate, on BBC Radio 4, in which hospital consultants were criticised because some of them earn as much as Â£200.00/hour. I was astonished that this is considered excessive in today’s world, when far less skilful people, who perform no life-saving tasks earn as much and more. Many NHS managers, earn a lot more than hospital consultants. Ironically, this criticism of hospital consultants came during a week in which MPs were awarded a 10% pay rise. I ,as a doctor, do not grudge them that pay rise.
Hospital consultants were also presented as refusing to work weekends. The truth is that most hospital consultants work weekends and sacrifice family life and sleep. The cost is , for instance, surgeons die younger than average. If the NHS is waging a war against doctors, they are behaving true to form: truth is the first casualty of war. They are prevaricating and deliberately deviating attention from underinvestment, and public abuse of the service, to one of its most valuable resources, doctors.
The point has been made that there is no wisdom in asking consultants to work weekends, which they do, when the NHS is not willing to have the other supporting services functional at the same time. The truth is that the NHS is not coping with the unrealistic aspirations of politicians. Rather than fall on their swords for failing to be realistic, politicians have turned their swords against doctors. Once more, the astounding short-sightedness of politicians is making medicine an unattractive career for young people. Not only are fewer young people wanting to be doctors, but more of our young doctors are working abroad, where they are better treated.
If the NHS wants a better service, they need to pay for it. Mr Hunt should stop behaving like an ill-disciplined, mouthy out-of-control charwoman and get an accountant to work out for him what the real cost of a seven day NHS is. He needs to put his money where his mouth is.