I have never felt more included by a Daily Mail front page than I do today

Normally I steer well clear of the Daily Mail out of fear that I might shave my head and start looking at brown people suspiciously if I let any of its reflected light hit my eyes. But today it caught my eye as I was queuing up to pay for my morning coffee because the header was concerned with the latest Boris Johnson controversy, a subject that I have recently written about myself, and the main story was about an increase in GP waiting times.

I am sad to admit that I agree with the sentiment that Boris Johnson is not racist. I genuinely don’t think that he is. I think he deliberately said some offensive things, which are not in themselves racist, in order to gain publicity. Yes, he could have said kind words about burkas but would he have been main news for a week if he had?

However, the second part of the front page was back on form for the old Mail. “Is there any point in ringing your GP anymore?”. What is the agenda behind this? Reading the article it seems that 75% of people can get to see their GP within 7 days, which doesn’t seem that bad especially when you consider:

  1. Most patients that I see could have waited 2 weeks to see me without making a scrap of difference to their outcomes. In fact if more people waited, most of the problems they had would have cleared up by themselves.
  2. The demand for GP services has risen enormously in recent years. People are living longer and have more health problems and they are less reluctant to come in about mental health problems.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with GP services. They work well and are very cost-effective. The article tells us that GPs have been “ordered” to offer appointment between 8am and 8pm as if we are all lazy for only working until 6:30pm. The reality is that if you want an 8am to 8pm service you need two GPs to cover it, unless you want every one who sees us at the end of the day to sue us for inevitable medical errors we will make because of fatigue. Yes, more money would help us stay open for longer and offer more appointments but it would do nothing about demand.

If we are serious about solving the problems in the NHS we need to spend the money in other places. We need to spend money on prevention which, as we all know, is many times more cost-effective and has fewer side-effects than a cure.

Teach children that being fat, smoking and drinking are bad. Make activity and healthy food cheaper and give them the confidence to do the things that their parents and grandparents currently do not. Make sure people have fulfilling jobs, good quality housing and strong support networks to prevent mental ill-health and teach people the skills they need to cope when life doesn’t go to plan. Tackling the problems in the health of our nation needs big ideas, not just sticking-plasters.

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