Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

The NHS is not wonderful


One thing I am tired of hearing from our politicians, especially rabid Socialists, is how wonderful the nurses and doctors in our beloved NHS are, as if every employee is a saint. With even Tory (at least I think he is a Tory) Prime Minister David Cameron espousing how great the NHS is, it has almost become sacrilege to differ.

Well, I do differ. Even Lenin would have found it difficult to dream up the NHS – it is a perfect Communist organisation where everyone is treated the same as if we were all the same.
Newsflash: we are not all the same.
A first year UK medical student knows that but still he/she falls hook, line and sinker into the mentality of a USSR apparatchik once he/she can add Dr. in front of his name. Well, it is hardly difficult to ignore this fact when the prospect of several hundred thousand pounds a year in wages is dangled in front of them. Never mind about the patients hey.

Politicians love to say how wonderful NHS staff are until their elderly mother ends up in an NHS ward and then they see their rhetoric hasn’t turned into reality. There are of courses some very good health care professionals but then there are some whose care is so bad it is illegal, as Ipswich Hospital were told by the Care Quality Commission.

I recently had the misfortune to visit my local GPs’ surgery. Firstly, despite paying thousands of pounds in taxes every year I was told I could not see a doctor but had to do with a ‘nurse practitioner’ – whatever one of those is – who, unsurprisingly, was not competent enough to assist. Once she pulled out her laminated crib sheet I knew I was in trouble! Luckily, I am not an elderly person and was able to stand up for myself and demanded to see a doctor, who was able to assist, although he failed to spot I had a perforated ear drum. Finally after seeing a third health professional, I was diagnosed correctly and provided with the medication I required. I despair what the experience must be like for a confused elderly lady.

I then heard an anecdote from my wife who was told her friend’s sister had recently, after much head scratching by doctors at Ipswich Hospital, been diagnosed with a brain tumour and was booked into see an oncologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. On the day of her appointment, she was called by Addenbrooke’s and told not to bother coming in as “there is nothing we can do”. Now, anecdotal evidence is not scientific but there is never smoke without fire and there are too many horror stories circulating for this story to be discounted.

The respected Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ broadcast a programme on the incompetence of GPs only last week, where one doctor failed repeatedly to spot the symptoms of bowel cancer.
It was astonishing to learn that GPs never have to be re-tested* once they qualify so in effect they can be a GP for 30 years without ever having their qualifications validated. An airline pilot must be re-tested every five years! Why not a GP? No wonder they think they can walk on water, when in one ear they are told they are too good to be re-tested and in the other they are told by politicians everyday how wonderful they are. The care of patients is tertiary never mind secondary in that performance-management vacuum.

This has led me to be convinced that the last people who should be given more powers as a result of the Health and Social Care Bill are GPs – that would be a recipe for terrible suffering and the Lords should not allow the GP Commissioning aspect of the Bill to gain Royal Assent.

We wait and see.

*As a result of The Shipman Inquiry, re-validation pilots of GPs have started but a date for a full roll-out of the re-validation process has not been set.

Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

16 thoughts on “The NHS is not wonderful

  1. Gavin, I agree entirely.I once sat in the reception when I was due to have my cast removed and the phone kept ringing and ringing and the receptionist staff just ignored the phone. They were moving around paper and still the phone kept ringing. The time was 0840. After about the fifth ring (no doubt the same person) one of the receptionists said out loud "don't they know we don't start until 8.45!!!" – you couldn't make it up

  2. Paul, we do that where I work. It isn't a hospital.

  3. But GP's are not part of the NHS they are self employedThats why the demand for "NHS salaried GP's"

  4. I'd like to meet these NHS doctors who earn "several hundred thousand pounds a year in wages". Last time I looked, the top level of pay for a hospital consultant was about 104K.Perhaps you were thinking of the private medicine sector?

  5. 104k is the basic for a GP. Hospital consultants earn way in excess of that from the taxpayer then due to the way the NHS was set up, they are allowed to do their private work on NHS premises. If you check the history when Labour Nye Bevan created the NHS, the consultants refused to be involved unless they could also do private work as well but on NHS premises. Patients have always been and will always be a second consideration – the whole organisation is for the benefit of medical professionals.

  6. interesting musings. A whole entry on the NHS and no mention of the managers. Its reported that NHS managers are increasing 5 times faster than the number of nurses!!In addition, (admittedly private work aside), i'd bet the bottom dollar – of my very average wage packet – that the highest paid individual within any NHS hospital does not have the prefix Dr and has never attended medical school!

  7. (Sorry, only just noticed your response.)Thanks for the clarification – I read your original as claiming doctors could be paid several hundred thousand in wages by the NHS, which would have been rather misleading.I am interested to see a Conservative arguing that the NHS foundation effectively wasn't socialist enough. Generally Tories seem to be in favour of skilled workers being able to entrepreneurially realize the value of their labour on the free private market, and against restrictions on how people can earn money. I'd be interested to hear what sort of legislation or regulation you would favour to clear up this anomaly in doctors' contracts: and how you would answer the private medical industry, which one would think depends upon it?

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