The other day we had David Cameron getting pumped up about a seven day NHS. Pumped up is the New Tory, but a lot of old hats were still put on pegs, some hats more moth-eaten than others. JC (of the Department of Health Sunshine Band) was wheeled onto the Today programme, sounding about as pumped up as a flat tyre. Despite the ill wind blowing today through NHS General Practice, with more vacancies than currants in a bun, the government’s prescription is five thousand more GPs. Quite which wind these GPs will arrive by has yet to be explained. Historically, the NHS has outsourced, or at least gained, extra doctors from abroad. Pigs, after all, can always fly, if they are pumped up enough.
Meanwhile, another ill wind is blowing through medical training. The Ferret Fancier’s sterling work on probing the GMC about the Shape of Training Review has now prompted a terse response from Absolutely Stilton. As usual, Absolutely Stilton can absolutely see things his own way. The Shape of Training Review, it will be remembered, is the vehicle for a plan to dumb down medical training, with a view to getting more sausages out of the machine faster, never mind the stuffing. Presided over by an egghead from the subject that makes astrology look scientific, we have no way of knowing whether the Review stooped so low as to consider the sweepings from the abattoir floor, though we can absolutely hope it didn’t.
The reason we don’t know is because, as the Ferret Fancier has established, certain Shape of Training Review meetings, which may or may not have involved officials from the Sunshine Band, the band who are promising five thousand more doctors out of thin air, are absolutely not in the public domain. According to Stilton, here ringing the changes on absolutely, this is ‘perfectly normal’. Stilton absolutely takes the view that it is “it is ridiculous to suggest that there were any so called ‘secret meetings’ held with politicians or anyone else”. Instead, according to Stilton, there were ‘routine meetings’ which generated undisclosed internal ‘notes’ both to ‘support’ the GMC’s secretariat role, and to provide an aide-mémoire for Absolutely Greenaway, the Prof absolutely leading the review.
Dr No agrees with the Ferret Fancier: meetings between officials held behind closed doors with no public record of what was discussed will absolutely pass muster as secret meetings. So, for now, we have no way of knowing what was discussed, how high the talks soared or how low they stooped, or how they did, or did not, influence the Shape of Training Review. All we know is there are ill winds blowing through both General Practice and medical training, and a government pledged to pull five thousand doctors out of a hat. Call it a cliché, but to Dr No, that has all the ingredients of a perfect storm. Absolutely.