Dear Mr Bevan,
Please forgive my formality, but this is not an entirely complimentary letter.
How do things look down here from up there?
Are you pleased with what you started?
I know, we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude for establishing the National Health Service after the war. It’s a fine thing. Universal healthcare. Free.
There’s just one little problem. You made a catastrophic mistake when you allowed GPs to remain as independent contractors. Yet also within the NHS.
Independent but effectively employed. Self employed but paid directly by the NHS.
I know why you did it…they refused to play ball with you.
And guess what…they still refuse to play ball!
There is a thing about cake and eating at the moment, on an entirely different subject. Was it Mr Gove or Mr Johnson who said we could have both?
Well GPs are the masters of this game.
Mr Bevan, you cannot have known that a little known man called Lansley would compound your mistake. But he did.
Mr Lansley came along eight years ago and decided it would be good to give GPs even more power. He put them in charge of deciding what health care we would get.
He decided that GPs in different parts of the country would look at their populations and make good evidence based decisions to provide the health care that they thought we needed.
Mr Lansley, you forgot one thing. You gave the fox the chickens. You gave the fox the keys to their own larder.
Unfortunately, you and your successors and club members also decided to give your GPs too little money, so they were bound to fail before they started. But they still had the keys to that larder.
Back to you, Mr Bevan.
What do you think now?
Did you see the meeting I was in last week when a GP CCG chair said that if GPs were not paid a fee to do something they did not need to and would put it to the bottom of their pile?
Did you hear the same GP say that GPs don’t have time to discuss care and living planning with their patients? Someone else has to do it.
And then did you wonder why that GP and his clubmates do not commission someone to do this care and living planning?
The thing is, Mr Bevan, we rely on our GPs for our healthcare. They, however, seem to play a game of rules, whereby if they don’t get a fee they don’t do it.
It doesn’t seem to matter that their Royal College club has given them the guidance on how to do this person centred care planning. And that it would save them time (avoided consultations) and their CCG money (avoided hospital admissions).
It would require healthcare navigators of some sort. And they cost money. And, oh dear, they don’t have any money. (Except their salaries and profit shares).
We all know that a business has to run as a business. If you lose money eventually you go out of business.
Equally, a business has customers who can buy goods and services elsewhere if they are not happy with you. In which case you either improve your customer service, or take a pay cut to keep the business going.
So its not really a business at all?
GPs are paid to provide care for their patients. But they choose what they will provide. And when.
And they only provide what they are paid a fee to provide.
And customers cannot usually realistically move to a different GP.
Hmm. We seem to have a problem.
Not only do GPs have a monopoly over primary healthcare for us.
They also have the bank account to pay for community and secondary healthcare.
I grant that CCGs do not commission primary care, ie their own GP services.
But they do decide many of the services we get. And when I hear one of them complaining of lack of time and lack of fees I get a little hot.
GPs could pay for a model of providing their service that reduced the need for face to face consultations by over half. They could get their lives back. It is proven. It’s good for GPs and good for patients.
We could get same day appointments easily.
It’s called “Ask my GP”. And it’s here:
But it costs some money!
Perhaps we patients should crowd source the cost!
Because sure as hell most GPs round here will not invest in it.
So, Mr Bevan, perhaps you would be good enough to return for a year or two and sort this out.