Wednesday, March 14, 2007

OOH My Head

Is the Chairman unwell?

We've blogged how the Simple Shopping Department of Health gave away our GPs Out of Hours (OOH) service many times (eg see here and here). And the Public Accounts Committee has now issued its report on the whole disgraceful shambles.

Yet all the Chairman says is:

"The Department of Health thoroughly mishandled the introduction of the new system. It chose to act as an observer, and no more, in the negotiations with GP representatives.

This hands-off approach to the costs of out-of-hours care was good news for the doctors but no one else. They were given a strong incentive to opt out (a lot less work for a small loss of income) and a disproportionate amount of taxpayers' money is now having to be spent to provide the replacement service.

The new service is getting better but the needs of patients are not best served where access to advice and treatment is often extremely difficult and slow. And they are not best served where no one knows whether the new out-of-hours service is meant for urgent cases only or for any requests for help at all."

Well yes. A very calm and balanced statement.

Which is why we're so concerned. Because on total fiascos like this, the Chairman can normally be relied on for some splendidly purple prose about turkeys, pigs in pokes, minging marmozets etc etc. We depend on him.

This whole miserable business has clearly given him a serious headache.

He'd better call a GP.

PS I've just heard him on R4 Today talking about doctors "laughing all the way to the bank". He must be on the mend.

PPS I've been informed by a certain GP that at 2am this morning he got up and went out to visit one of his patients who is desperately ill. Of course, under the new contract he didn't have to do that, and he certainly won't get paid for it. But he did it because he's a responsible caring old fashioned GP. Without getting sentimental, I've already told him that makes me feel... well, humble is the word. But it doesn't alter my feelings about the fiasco of the GPs pay deal. GPs all seem to feel that the DoH never understood what a bargain they had with the highly stressful OOH, and maybe the thing did need a full drains up. But as the NAO and PAC have documented, what we taxpaying patients have ended up with is the worst of both worlds- much higher costs, but no dependable OOH (unless you're lucky enough to have a GP like my correspondent). For which the DoH is squarely responsible.

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