D Mail

Coming face-to-face with a lot of GPs

Meeting your GP in person isn’t has hard as it’s being made out
You could be forgiven for questioning the wisdom of holding a live conference for, and by GPs at this particular juncture.

What, with the Dailies Mail and Telegraph, and the new Health Secretary weighing in to GPs about not doing enough face-to-face appointments, it was quite a surprise to see quite so many, in-person, at the NEC in Birmingham this week. 

This trade show is an annual event that aims to make family doctoring easier, cheaper and more effective. It was remarkable in a number of aspects.

For one, it was the first time I’d been on a train for nearly two years. Euston station is a building site, and Virgin appears to have morphed into Avanti. And the price of coffee and sandwiches has shot up.

The NEC’s long, drafty corridors remain long and drafty – the only change being a requirement to show one’s Covid status. This was not actually stated prominently in the pre-show publicity and the NHS App was on the blink. So once again, I had to thank the new fyio app on which all my vital documents are stored. Get it. It’s good.

Best Practice looked to be very well attended – quite a surprise under the circs but let’s be clear; it’s important for GPs to get out, mingle with others, share stories, see examples of good practice and kick the tyres on some shiny new kit. It was hard to pick up a particular vibe or theme among the delegates to whom I spoke – other than the unmitigated pleasure of being able to be at an event with real people again.

Two other things also struck me: what’s with the number of stands with overflowing bowls of Haribos, Quality Street and Rose’s to tempt you in? Put there by the pharma companies who produce insulin perhaps?

And, weirdly, hordes of people wandering aimlessly around hoovering up the branded pens and paper that still proliferate. At a gig that might arguably be about promoting healthy lifestyles and a paperless NHS, should the organisers have rethink on this?

Unsurprisingly, remote consultation providers were well represented as were data crunchers and pharma. The government, on the other hand was notably absent.

That’s quite an interesting message to send to a gathering of relatively docile GPs. It wasn’t the BMA for heaven’s sake.

The latest missive from the DH offers a “thank you to GPs for their commitment during the most challenging of times…” but it might as well have added “but you’re now on the naughty step until you start working harder and seeing more of your patients…”.

Would it really have been such a trial for the new minister in charge of primary care, Maria Caulfield, to make an appearance and murmur some words of encouragement? Perhaps she was busy looking down the back of the sofa for a spare £250m to fund the “blueprint” that “will improve access and provide additional funding to increase the proportion of face to face appointments.” Actually, it’s not new money though, is it?

My slightly euphoric feeling of having been set free (well, you have to get your euphoria where you find it these days) evaporated immediately with the announcement on the train that the onboard shop would not be open “because of a fault.”

So much for a return to normality.

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