Thursday, February 14, 2008

GPs are spinning patients' sympathy away

Doctors are being balloted on which of the government's two options for longer opening hours they dislike least. Option A will see GP's practices richer to the tune of about £12,000 in return for an extra three hours a week. Option B will see the government flogging off out of hours provision to the highest bidder.

Let's hope that in their pique, the doctors still make the right decision. Patients want GP's surgeries open at times that make sense and they want it on the NHS.

The doctors' trade union, the BMA, keep telling us that they've made their own proposals to the government for longer hours. I'm sure they have and I'm sure they're very sensible. But I'd be more convinced about their commitment to them if they didn't also keep claiming that people don't want longer hours and quoting a methodologically suspect survey to prove it.

I don't blame the BMA for spinning against the government - unless he's the only politician on the planet who still in 2008 believes that the free market can solve everything then health secretary Alan Johnson is doing a fair bit of spinning himself with his non-optional 'option B' - but it does worry me that the doctors are spinning on the basis of a piece of research that they either haven't read properly or are hoping we haven't read properly. It shows an indifference to methodology and a preparedness to distort findings which I hope doesn't extend to their reading of medical research.

It also shows a lack of respect for the public. Do the doctors really, sincerely, in their heart of hearts, think that their patients don't want surgeries open occasionally in the evening or on Saturday? If they do, then the substantial pay rises that they've rightly enjoyed over the past couple of years - average GP salaries are now £100,000 plus - have left them them totally divorced from reality.

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