‘The Prime Minister has expressed frustration at the failure of more GP practices to offer extended opening hours, amid intensifying pressure on NHS [England] hospital services.
Downing Street warned surgeries in England which refuse to move to 8am to 8pm opening, seven days-a-week will lose funding unless they can prove there is no demand from patients.’ (Daily Mail, 14.1.17)
There’s deep irony in the UK Tories turning on the English GP’s and blaming them for the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in English hospitals after the years of campaigning by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the BMA, in collusion with the Unionist parties and media, to undermine the Scottish Government’s management of NHS Scotland and by implication the case for independence..
As far back as 2013, we could read this:
‘Chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee Alan McDevitt also said Westminster’s changes would have a “negative impact on general practice in Scotland”.
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:
“We would very much hope, even at this stage, that the Government will show English GPs the same respect as Scottish GPs have been afforded. We find it very hard to understand why GPs in England are being discriminated against [when] there is a deal that is acceptable north of the border, which is not an imposition.”
Despite this show of good will by the Scottish Government, of hard evidence that Scottish GPs are more content than most in the world and that there are more of them per capita than in the rest of the UK (see below), the RCGP and the BMA have mounted a long and weary campaign of misinformation and vague accusations against the SNP and found it well-reported in the Scottish Unionist media. Here are the links to the evidence of the second and third point above:
So, the RCGP and the BMA in Scotland have much to be satisfied with especially in the light of recent attempts in England to scapegoat them for the failures of the Tory government there. Yet, they have repeatedly provided suspect, often just wrong, but headline grabbing stories for the Scottish media to enable the construction of a climate in which it seems the Scottish Government is failing to manage NHS Scotland.
In March 2015, I wrote:
‘This time it’s a crisis in GP numbers. There is a shortage, by the BMA’s estimation, of around 1 in 5 unfilled posts. Whose estimation? The BMA or British Medical Association like the Royal College of Nursing has a name saturated in goodness and authority, so we can trust them can’t we? No, we can’t. Remember what I said about the RCN? It applies to the BMA just as much. This is a just a posh trades union. The BMA says so on its website and acts in ‘the interest of its members’ aspirations’. That means the same as ‘wur members’ aspirations’ except the BMA aspirations are dizzyingly high compared to those of the average paid worker. I’m not saying there isn’t a shortage of GPs, but we don’t know what kind of shortage or how bad a shortage until we get independent research. Like a coal-miner or a railway-worker, they might be manoeuvring to get more money for shorter hours.
Finally are these research findings of a formal, reliable, nature or just impressionistic ad hoc surveying by partisan ‘researchers’? No such research report is published on the seriously reliable BMJ research journal site. The BMA doesn’t seem to have a research section at all and a search of their site reveals nothing. The BMA press release does indicate there was a 61% response rate but gives no other details that we might use to judge its quality. Of those practices who responded, 17% had at least one vacancy. Let’s have a wee second opinion using the BMA’s press release figures, on this patient arithmetic, shall we?
GP practices in Scotland 988
Actual response rate 463/988*100 = 47% NOT 61%
Respondents with at least 1 unfilled vacancy 17% of 463 = 79 practices or 1 in 6
Or if non-respondents had no vacancies 79/988 = 8% or 1 in 12 practices’
In early 2016, we had these headlines:
‘Almost nine out of ten Scottish GPs believe patient care is being jeopardised by a lack of resources, according to a new poll.’ STV News, 28th April 2016
‘Top doctor blasts SNP for lack of funding as he warns of longer waits to see a GP and a future without family doctors’ Daily Record (Glasgow) 27th January, 2016
Again at the time I wrote to demolish these claims:
‘Leaving aside the obvious difficulty in relying on a sample of 150 GPs out of a population of around 5 000 Scottish GPs (0.3%) and the RCGP’s frankly simplistic reading of the results, there are real problems with this reliance by ComRes: on self-assessed online surveys with sometimes leading questions, and all-to-predictable results.
Here’s just one example of a leading question.: The above headline: ‘89% of GPs say they worry that lack of resources is putting patient care at risk.’ was in response to a question, more of a prompt really: ‘I worry about lack of resources putting patient care at risk.’ Ask any health professional that question and who among them do you expect would admit to not worrying if such a thing were to be the case? Further, the headline omits the fact that only 42% ‘strongly agreed’ with the prompt while 47% only ‘somewhat agreed.’ Who wouldn’t ‘somewhat’ agree that a shortage of resources might ‘somewhat’ worry them? These are people ‘somewhat’ high in empathy according to psychopathy tests.
For those with other lives, I’ll sum up. Small sample, online surveys of ‘caring’ professional groups (teachers, nurses, doctors), based on respondents’ self-assessment of their feelings, to questions about how stressed and over-worked they feel, are damned near SFA-use and carry a big health risk (pun intended) if you intend to say anything confident about them. OK RCGP Scotland Region? Do pay attention.’
The above is only a small selection of my responses to BMA and RCGP Scotland branch over the last two years but to finish today, here’s an example of the astonishing kind of thing being said as recently as April 2016 by RCGP chair Dr Miles Mack:
‘England now has the security of knowing that its general practice service is safe and will remain. To give Scotland, birthplace of the NHS model, comparable security, we would need to see £270 million more invested in general practice in 2020/21 than there was in 2014/15. This is a defining election issue, right at the heart of Scottish life.’ Dr Miles Mack, Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland (RCGP) in the Herald (April 23rd)
As we watch the English ‘NHS’ fall apart with, for example, repeated junior doctors’ strikes, appalling failures in A&E and health boards generally and attempts to privatise ambulance services, our first reaction to the Scottish RCGP’s suggestion (above) is likely to be disbelief.
In June 2016 we had this in the Herald and many others like it across the Scottish MSM:
‘Herald View: GP shortages point to perfect storm for NHS’
Even as recently as the 3rd January 2017, as NHS Scotland coped and the others collapsed, we saw this kind of thing in the Evening Telegraph:
‘A leading Dundee GP has likened the [Scottish] national doctor shortage to “a slow motion car crash”, saying things are going to get worse before they improve.’
I suspect Dr Mack now wants to forget he ever said the above. Goodness knows what the ‘leading’ Dundee GP is using for evidence. Hopefully the BMA and the RCGP in Scotland have ‘smelled the coffee’ and realise how lucky they are. Perhaps, now, they might desist from their naked Unionist propaganda?