Sunday, 23 November 2008

Pulse nails the lazy Mail

There is a certain sense of irony in me reproducing a Pulse article here because the article neatly mocks the Daily Mail's lazy and sensationalist journalism, I just think it's such a damn good piece that it deserves to be spread as widely as possible:

"Cancer, global financial crisis and all wars 'are GPs fault', Daily Mail claims

GPs' newspaper of choice, the Daily Mail, has stepped up its crusading message with three stories which set a new standard in GP bashing. It couldn't be pay negotiation time could it?

Today comes the news that out-of-date GPs are sentencing thousands of cancer sufferers to death because they're failing to diagnose their illness in time. I paraphrase only slightly.

In the story, headlined '10000 Britons die needlessly every year as GPs with out-of-date training miss vital cancer symptoms', based on an eminently reasonable Cancer Research UK report, Mail reporter Daniel Martin writes 'GPs too often miss symptoms or do not send enough patients for tests.'

He goes on 'In some cases their training is simply out of date. The report says some people are deterred from seeking treatment by the difficulty of getting an appointment.'

Predictably the article doesn't miss the opportunity 'failure of GPs' comes despite their pay 'soaring to more than £100,000 a year'.

What guff. The nub of the Cancer Research report, that there is too little public awareness about cancer symptoms, meaning many victims do not see their GP until it is too late to save their lives, is mentioned but only as a throw away point - seeming less important as a factor than getting an appointment with a GP.

One would think the Mail, with its vast numbers of middle-aged, female and elderly readers slap bang in the highest cancer risk groups would focus more on this aspect. No, of course not. Because there's no easy target there. Too much explaining to do.

Moving on, yesterday the Mail's bait was the Kings Fund report on PBC. How did on earch could it carve an angle out of something as desperately drab as PBC, you ask. Easy. It's that 'GPs 'waste' 100m NHS fund set aside for local care'.

Apparently, family doctors are simply pocketing cash set aside to improve local services or routinely commissioning themselves to do it.

Of course, as GPs know there are enough problems with PBC to make your eyes bleed with frustration, but...that'd take too much explaining. Rubbish managers? Too dull. Dreadful bureacracy? Boring. Ill conceived scheme in the first place? Too complicated. GPs pocketing your hard earned money? Gotcha!

Our 'favourite' story though, for its sheer absurd, laughable, OTTness is 'GPs are focusing on patients who bring in bonuses'. Now there might be a fair point in the report that conditions not in the QOF don't get the same focus as those that are.

The QOF an incentive scheme. If you incentivise something, it gets more attention. That's life.

But it's the third line in the story that's the killer. So brazen. So shameless.

GPs 'are ignoring elements of care such as compassion because they do not get extra cash for being nice to patients.'

Why didn't the Mail just come right out and say 'GPs are money-grabbing, heartless bastards who would mug you in the waiting room for a quid and are really hoping you'll die so they don't have to waste their time on your pathetic existence' and get it over with?

So why is the knife being plunged in further and twisted harder this week? The week the Government's pay negotiators put forward a below inflation 1.5% pay recommendation for GPs.

Might Mail editor Paul Dacre have had a chat with his good pal and former chancellor - the man who signed off the GP contract that has embarrassed his Government ever since - the Prime Minister?

I really wonder how close the brown nosing Mail hacks are to the politicians that feed them this misguided propaganda? Certainly it's very strange how so many useless schemes that have been crafted from faeces by this Labour government are then blamed on the workers such as the GPs who are forced to put them into practice. It's the brainless Whitehall managers and bureaucrats who run the shambles that is called the NHS that are to blame, not the hard working clinicians on the ground.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The King's Fund - an 'independent' body

I am a terrible cynic so I have never paid much attention to the ramblings of the King's Fund, however I am sure that many neutrals get sucked in by the pretence of this Fund being such an 'objective' voice of reason. As many other so called 'independent' bodies it isn't really anywhere near as independent as it first appears, much like virtually all other so called 'independent' think tanks which are run by a small gang of cronies with blatant vested interests such as IPPR or the Fabian society.

Invariably these 'independent' bodies are run by people who are casting their divine judgement on things in which they have never been remotely close to the coal face, it typifies the way in which a lot of the country is run so badly by idiots who have no understanding of the reality on the ground. The King's Fund claims that:

"The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London"

The Who's who of the King's Fund makes rather interesting reading too. Strangely the NHS' commissioning boss Mark Britnell is a senior associate, the man who controls the NHS' purse strings, no conflict of interest there then. Private Eye alerted me to this fruity little story. Britnell sat on the DoH interview panels ahead of the selection of the King's Fund and Co consortium as one of seven eligible for contracts to boost the skills of PCTs in spending their 75 billion on world class 'commissioning'.

Britnell co-authored the NHS Plan in 2000 with Alan Milburn, while two of the plan's other architects also sit on the King's Fund management committee. These are Tony Blair's former health adviser amd now UnitedHealth UK boss Simon Stevens and Dr Penny Dash, ad adviser to McKinsey and Co of private equity and independent health care provider fame. As the Eye has revealed the private links to the King's Fund do not stop there, Dr Rebecca Rosen is the medical director of Humana, a huge US health care firm, and she is also an senior associate of the King's Fund.

So when the King's Fund talks of opening up the health care system to yet more competition and private providers, with yet more needless bureaucracy, should we believe them when they talk of their remarkable independence and integrity? It appears the DoH is rapidly becoming a privatised branch of Whitehall and that little they do is in the best interests of the general public, they seek to satisfy their private masters first and foremost.