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'Has nobody told Mr Hunt about the GP system in this country?'


We were eating paella when I made the announcement. Do you know how hard it is to find vegetarian prawns by the way? Linda McCartney has stopped making them, something to do with the fact that they are ridiculous, but my daughter is insistent. “Everything can suffer dad,” she says. “Even a prawn.”

“Yes,” I say, “but so can the poor person who spends their working day moulding tofu into the shape of a prawn. What kind of life is that?”

“A life that saves the prawns.”

And somewhere I think I can hear a group of prawns clapping, with their tiny prawn hands.

“Anyway,” I say, trying out my serious voice, “I’ve decided to relaunch myself.” My wife carries on eating without so much as a glance.

“You’re not a boat dad,” says my daughter, the prawn rescuer.

“I’m thinking a not-quite-new brand of me and maybe a restatement of essence.”

“There will still be no vacuuming then?” says my wife.

“We have a vacuum cleaner?”

“You’re not going to start wearing silly clothes are you dad?”

“No more than usual.”

And then - because she has trained for many years to do this - my wife sees right through me.

“You’re going to make something up aren’t you? Something you can say you are working on to prevent you from having to visit people you don’t like, do jobs you don’t want to do or tidy the loft. I don’t believe it, you’re doing a Jeremy Hunt.”

I’d hoped the paella might have allowed me to sneak it through but yes I was doing a Jeremy Hunt. When Mr Hunt announced last week, with a seemingly straight face, that all older people will have a named clinician in charge of their care when they leave hospital, the nation looked quizzically at the news and thought as one: “Is he inventing the GP again?” Because (and I may be missing something here) as I understand it every person already has a named person in charge of their care - their doctor.

It may be that nobody told Mr Hunt about the GP system in this country but think how happy he will be when someone finally does. “Really?” he’ll say with the forced enthusiasm of a man who has just been told his hotel room has a trouser press. “And people can go and see these GPs, as you call them, when they are ill? Who is paying for that? Are we paying for that?”

Mr Hunt’s attempts to look busy do not stop there however. In what he must have imagined was a political masterstroke - whereby he gets to say he is saving money and can blame Johnny Foreigner for something - he announced a clampdown on health tourism. He said putting measures in place to prevent people from coming over here and using our health system without putting anything into it would save us £33m a year.

Well two things. First, we did that 10 years ago, thanks. People don’t “come over here” to use our system - the protocols are already in place to prevent abuse. Second, if you wanted to save money you might have not bothered with the pointless and unhelpful £2bn reorganisation.

It’s a strange strategy, doing things that have already been done and pretending they are new. I look forward to hearing the plans to create large depositing areas for ill people. We could call them hospitals. But mostly I think I’ll hear what else will be done to dismantle and abuse a health system that deserves so very much more than it gets from disengaged politicians.

Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer, and author of Gabriel’s Angel. Follow him on twitter @markacradcliffe


Readers' comments (3)

  • michael stone

    I can't find the link at present (I posted it on NT), but 'Pulse' was running comments on this 'named clinician' thing (the comments made Tinkerbell 'blush and rapidly retreat' so far as I can understand). Some of the GPs seemed to think Hunt wasn't talking about them, but was talking about something else - Community Matrons springs to mind ?

    I believe 'forthright' would be an accurately descriptive term for some of the comments on the Pulse 'site.

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  • michael stone

    I should pay more attention, Mark, curb my enthusiasm, and read all the way to the end first, to save posting twice.

    Re this 'hospital' idea you mention. I thought the main thrust of this Tory goverment, was essentially 'We'll tell people to not get ill in the first place, then we won't need to provide any health care for them' - or have I misunderstood something ?

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  • michael stone

    I think, judging from one of today's papers and a very incomplete read of part of it, that Hunt has just said he wants GPs to be responsible for OOH cover, and that hospital consultants should be on 24/7 contracts to achieve night/weekend cover at comparable (safety) levels to daytime.

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