The BMA is the professional body that represents the 40,000 GPs in the UK. However it is increasingly acting like a militant trade union.
Their latest proposition to their members is a handbook of advice with a list of 17 services that GPs should not do. These are services like:- wound care management, nursing leg ulcers, following up hospital discharges, minor injury surgery services, etc. All services that are critical to enabling older people to remain living in the community and to return home again after a stay in hospital. They claim they are ‘inappropriate’ and should be done by someone else.
What this is really about is the growing pressure on the NHS from the rapidly increasing number of older people. The failure of any recent Government to face up to this, just leads to endless cost shunting around the NHS, between hospitals, GPs and Social Services. In the meantime expensive hospital beds are occupied by older people, who would much rather return home and be looked after in the community at less expense.
The British Medical Association which represents all doctors should be more concerned about the interests of their patients.
Instead of looking at things through the eyes of the doctors’ trade union, maybe we make a radical shift to put the power in the hands of the customer. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, always argues that the money should follow the patient and this way you would get a service which more reflects individual patients’ needs. So what if we were to give an allocation of funds to older people to spend as they wished on their health. This would enable them to select a doctor of their choice and to decide what and how the health services they need should be provided.
This would probably shift the priorities of health care in the direction of preventative health and support in the community rather than concentrating more and more on health services in a few large teaching hospitals. It would also play to GP’s more customer focused skills.
We are all supposed to be grateful for what we receive from the health service, but it is often forgotten that we are all paying for it through our taxes. So the health service is not there for the benefit of doctors, it should always be there for the benefit of patients.
The key word, which is not often used in relation to the health service, is customer.