Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The government's is the only flexible hours game in town, George

I hesitate to tackle George Monbiot - one of the handful of brand-name journalists who has put a subject on the agenda singlehandedly. If we do save the environment, it will owe a lot to George. However, we may struggle to save our young men if too much notice is paid to his column on GP opening hours. Of course, he can write about what he wants and is rightly looking for new angles but this strays dangerously close to baby with the bath-water territory.

Sure, one of the drivers behind the government's keeness for longer surgery hours is its need to please big business - when was it otherwise? In an ideal world with a properly funded NHS free to all it wouldn't be necessary. But that's not where we are and I don't think health secretary Alan Johnson will be taking us there anytime soon. If we want the sort of flexible opening hours that suit all the population, this is the only game in town. Sometimes, as with the environment, as with health, you need to be a little pragmatic - principles only save lives if they become practice.

George cites the survey that the BMA have also been using to support their campaign against longer hours. A survey that - like some of the anti-global warming stuff that has been cited against George - has some major methodological shortcomings.

George was in trouble recently for suggesting that young people should forego the pleasures of limitless air travel that he took for granted in his youth in order to save the planet. He may well have a point but for God's sake George, if they can't go on a plane, at least let our young men go to the doctors.

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