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Sticking the needle in

24 March 2011

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We’re only a few months into 2011 but the year has already been eventful. In January, we saw the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill. This has to be the most talked about proposal within the NHS since 1948. Now just awaiting the royal seal of approval, I wonder what it will all really mean. From where I am sitting, I sincerely believe that even those in the know aren’t actually sure.

This is a very difficult time for some as there are many staff working within the NHS whose jobs are genuinely under threat. Many of these are people we have worked with for years; many are personal friends.

I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the politics involved, but I think it’s fair to say there will be a good deal of lobbying for places within and supporting the new consortia. Let’s hope that decent primary care trust support staff haven’t jumped ship already, prior to being pushed: good back-room support is as key to the success of GP commissioning as the GPs making the commissioning decisions; one really can’t work without the other.

There was also a huge incidence of flu at the turn of the year. I think we are finally seeing the back of it now, but the last few weeks have been horrendous. Many of us have personally suffered from flu symptoms, as have our staff, and our surgeries have been bursting at the seams with patients suffering the same. We have treated them, we have rallied round and have also achieved our flu targets – so why, once again, has primary care been slated by the media?

I was lucky enough to be away over the new year but couldn’t avoid the headlines as a friend, desperate for the footie news, managed to pick up my ‘favourite’ daily paper. General practice was hitting the headlines once again: this time we were criticised for having failed to order enough flu vaccine supplies.

Why is it that whatever we do it isn’t enough? The critics need to be aware, once and for all, that this is the reality: we do order enough vaccine. We know how much to order, we buy thousands of vaccines every year. Each year, we send roughly the same amount back to the supplier. On 23 December our staff were ringing patients desperately trying to encourage them to take up the offer of a jab. But the truth is that some people simply don’t want it.

Despite that, and because of hours of spade work, we have reached our targets. We had plenty of supplies. In fact we have had those supplies since last September. Our well-advertised campaign began in earnest in October. Why is it, then, that 
in December we are criticised for not having ordered enough?

The truth is that demand has been galvanised 
by the media. Why? For effect? The media really 
has to take some responsibility for the fall out. 
General practice doesn’t – we have done a difficult job and done it well. Yet there is still talk of the service being repatriated to other providers. Sometimes I really am at a loss, although I am clear that we did our best and I am more than happy to shout about it.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that Stuart Gidden has made a good recovery after his stay in hospital. Sadly and on a personal note, our practice lost our senior partner just before Christmas after struggling to battle cancer over the last few years. He worked right up until the end, before his untimely death. He really was a character:  he knew everyone and everyone knew him. Rest in peace DC, you really did do your best.