Sunday, 19 July 2015

Advice for NHS GPs facing Jeremy Hunt's 7-day working week diktat

Jeremy Hunt is a year younger than I am and quite a formidable opponent for cardi-wearing, self-sacrificing NHS GPs. He thinks he is winning as MPs just gave themselves an 11% pay rise. The last time I underestimated someone a year younger was when I was 9, pitting minds against the future British women's chess champion, Catherine Forbes, who was 8. Won't do that again!

Hunt will NOT beat NHS GPs into submission with his latest imposition of a 7-day working contract and here is how GPs can win against a unilateral variation of a NHS GP contract, with a somewhat effete trade union in the wings, busy generating surveys.

Just like a chess game, imagine NHS GPs as pawns who have lost their Queen, the British Medical Association. A queen could ballot its members on mass undated resignations from an unworkable and bankrupting government contract. This move was effective in the past and won NHS GPs, a generous 2004 contract, which seemed like a Trojan Horse at the time, after all, who wouldn't accept a drop of £6,000 a year in surgery income to hand over out of hours cover for all their 1000s of patients?

Why has our trade union taken a back seat? Well it may have something to do with the generous government pension cap guaranteed for GPs who retired by 2012 (a cap of up to £1.8 million to be protected for 10 years) or the Queen's Honours bestowed on senior members of the BMA? One may only surmise and express an opinion.

How do GPs win with all the odds stacked up against them? They are losing pawns, one by one, as GPs head for Australia, Canada, Qatar, America or take voluntary early retirement or change careers. Well, who can blame them? £300,000 to work in Canada alongside an ex pat. Double pay and double the time with each patient to work in sunny Australia. Tax-free earnings in the Middle East. Or stay in the NHS and face working as an assembly-line salaried NHS GP on an average pay of £57,000. Assembly-line, as who in their right minds can consult with a patient, listen, ask questions, examine, type up a consultation, print forms, complete boxes all in 10 minutes? And before you say £57k is generous, MPs are earning over £70k now, train drivers on almost similar pay do not pay out £8k in annual indemnity (with indemnity hitting a record high of £30k for out of hours GP work), our younger GPs face medical student loan repayments of up to £100k, and a salaried GP may take home less than a family on tax-free benefits!

Plenty of NHS GP training placements remain vacant. Some clever young doctors fill posts to acquire the MRCGP degree, a golden ticket to permanent residency in Australia. This leaves a handful to serve the NHS as a salaried GP working Hunt's 7-day slave rota? No time and a half for weekends or the grave yard shift. These young and naive pawns may be putting themselves at risk of a potential lawsuit or a GMC referral. How can any GP safely consult and treat patients in 10 minute routine slots (3-5 minute phone slots, 5 minute emergency slots), up to 7 days a week, when there are too many patients, the NHS is cash-strapped and under-manned and hospitals and surrounding GP surgeries are closing their doors?

How do we beat Hunt when the country has a £1.5 trillion public deficit, the NHS is facing more cuts whilst financing new multimillion pound hospitals built whilst more NHS hospitals and GP surgeries face closure, rising indemnity fees with NHS negligence claims bill topping £1 billion, £1.8 billion of our pension pot has been cashed out in just 2 months,  and Osborne is lending Greece £700 million of our taxpayer's money as an emergency loan which may be used to cover Greek pensions as the Greek people may retire in their 50s vs age 68 for NHS GPs (that is if they survive the gruelling work to an early grave regime, 5-yearly career-ending GMC revalidation checks, banks not foreclosing on overdrawn practice accounts, etc.)? Adopt American pioneer Dr Pamela Wible's model of the independent practitioner. She set up her own independent GP practice with $3,000. Dentists regained their self respect decades ago and it is time for GPs to do the same; charge on a sliding scale and determine your own terms and conditions.  The world is your oyster. Brother and sister Generation Y GPs Dr Lily and Dr Tony Wong set up the London Medical Cinic in Hong Kong! Do not be held to ransom by Hunt! As women now outnumber male GPs, we will put our lives, wellbeing and families first! We refuse to live to work up to 7 days a week and instead we choose to work to live and enjoy life! Check and mate Jeremy Hunt!