Monday, 9 May 2011

Another view from the front line

It’s not often that a blog post gives me a sleepless night, Never - until now in fact. But I have been stewing for nearly a week, trying to work out how best to report on a conversation I had with a GP recently. I have decided that the best thing is to write in as much detail as I can, exactly what she said.

This is an excellent family doctor, experienced, knowledgeable, caring and pragmatic. When I told her that I write a healthcare blog this is what she said. (as near verbatim as I can)

GP: ‘I’ll give you something for your blog. I really want you to write this. Let them know what we think. GPs don’t want this reform. There is a conflict of interest if we have to commission services and refer patients for those services. What do I do if a patient wants a treatment that my consortia doesn’t agree to commission? According to the reform, the patients are free to choose their treatment. Does a GP decide on treatment according to patient choice, clinical need, profit for the consortia? I didn’t sign up for this – relationships with patients will be damaged.’

The GP then became uncharacteristically emotional. ‘We lost a brilliant gastroenterologist last week.’

I asked her if the consultant had just ‘had enough’.

GP:’ He wrote to me last week about a patient, explaining why he hadn’t been able to fit the patient onto his list quickly. It was a bit if a rant, about how he was far exceeding the European Directive on time at work, how the cuts in his hospital trust meant that he was short staffed, so he was undertaking junior doctor duties as well as his consultant role. He sounded at the end of his tether. A few days later he dropped dead. 53 years old. Please, write this in your blog’

I cannot, and would not, comment on whether the stress of the budget restraints that hospitals face a shift of funds, contributed this consultant’s death.

But what I can say, without doubt, is that this GP believes  this is just the start of potentially devastating situations, impacting on patients and staff, that will evolve as these unworkable reforms are implemented. And as the Royal College of GPs have stated today that 'patients may be harmed' as a result of the Health and Social Care Bill- surely these are voices that simply must be heard.


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