Hot on the heels of such articles, the grassroots group GP Survival has received a leaked document* that appears to suggest the DH is set to announce a technological breakthrough that could facilitate the delivery of the controversial GP Forward View.
The innovation has been heralded as a huge coup for a little known DH think-tank named the department for Strategic Holistic Innovation & Technological Evaluation (acronym to be patented).
The device, known as a Patient Interface Symptom Sorter (pictured right), is a low-tech solution that could be rolled out as a powerful tool to enable physician associates to consult quickly and make decisions rapidly.
Here’s how it works: the patient points to the symptom on the device that most closely matches their presenting complaint, and this enables the physician's associate - using a complex algorithm and a sequence of hand movements - to arrive at a management plan in under 60 seconds.
DH officials say the device will ‘remove the need for lengthy parts of the GP consultation, for example, the bit where GPs have to listen to patients’ symptoms, and also the bit where they examine them’.
Critics have pointed out the similarity of the Patient-Interface-Symptom-Sorter (acronym also to be patented) to a 1980s children’s paper ‘fortune teller’, also known as a Cootie Catcher.
But sources close to the health secretary say this is to grossly oversimply its complexity, and more importantly to undermine its potential cost-saving applications. The health secretary himself has allegedly pointed out that the device will retail at a cost of 0.01p, and that 5,000 could be made relatively quickly by skilled staff at the DH. ‘GPs will have a powerful new tool for diagnosis and treatment; quite literally at their fingertips,' the source said.
Fears have been raised that introduction of such untested innovations at vast scale may lead to a rapid deterioration in standards of medical care, but the DH insists this can be covered by what they describe as a ‘modest rise’ in indemnity fees.
So with the clock ticking on the GP Forward View, the DH seems intent on rolling out the Patient Interface Symptom Sorter across general practice.
The Royal College (of Origami) is said to be hugely excited at the prospect.
- Dr Tom Jones (pictured) is vice chair of the GP Survival group and a partner near Manchester