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A victorious fiasco. Now it gets tough …

6 July 2010

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Consultant Editor

I may be nothing if not predictable, and so I’ll begin by discussing the election result. Despite all the predictions and our expectation of a hung parliament, I am not sure any of us were quite ready for the fiasco it turned out to be – either pre-election, with the dithering TV debates, or post-election, with their debatable decisions.

Whatever your politics, how is it possible to have a government where the election loser has basically turned out to be the winner? It’s beyond me, but whatever the outcome they must now get down to the tough business of working together.

Our new health secretary is Andrew Lansley, who has shadowed this role in opposition since 2003, and will therefore have a good knowledge of the workings of the NHS. Even so, he has a difficult task ahead introducing new policies.

The key issue for the NHS has to be the impending spending cuts (although we in general practice haven’t seen any obvious direct growth since the new contract, and have had to make ends meet). With a proposed 5% cut on the annual NHS budget, I think we would be naïve to think primary care will escape a hit. Of course, when and how this will affect us have yet to be established.

“Efficiency savings” seem to be the buzzwords. Let’s hope that whatever savings are actually made, these are reinvested into NHS services and not simply more management costs to slosh the money around the system. Only time will tell.

Let’s also hope that once change has been made and the new government has made their mark, they allow us to bed down and get on with it, as the constant rollercoaster we find ourselves on becomes exhausting after a few rides around.

Summary account
One of the legacies of the last government will of course be the introduction of the summary care record (SCR), part of the Connecting for Health programme. I must say our primary care trust has worked very hard on pulling together a series of information-sharing and consultation events on this subject, and have availed themselves to the general public to answer any queries they may have.

However, a smile did cross my face when I received my own letter in the post advising me of the existence of the SCR. The letter was full of information about the process, and even offered me the opportunity to have the information provided in a different language.

Unfortunately it didn’t make it easy for me to opt out, leaving me to source my own opt-out forms via the internet or my GP practice. Call me cynical, but I have to question whether Connecting for Health were relying on apathy to maintain the low opt-out rate they have predicted from the pilot projects.

Just a reminder about the Management in Practice Events, which provide the opportunity to discuss all these issues and more with your peers and colleagues, in addition to the high-profile speaker presentations and training sessions taking place. Our series of conferences kicked off in Manchester on 8 June, and further events are taking place in London on 1 September and Birmingham on 20 October. Entrance is free. Further information on these events can be found at

Until then, fingers crossed for more sunshine – it has felt like a long and cold winter …