Dr Tom Jones: Time to shuffle Jeremy Hunt to the bottom of the pack

As we await the snap general election, it is time to reflect on the performance of the incumbent government against its manifesto promises.

Specifically, the famous ‘5,000 new GP pledge’ that Our Great Leader Jeremy Hunt made his own.

It must have been a terrible blow for poor Jeremy - so desperately close to that magnificent achievement - to have his moment of triumph cruelly snatched away by his boss’s insistence on calling the election two years early.

The uncomfortable fact that full-time GP numbers have actually dropped since the 2015 general election, and that the government seemed to be heading towards a massive GP deficit thanks to the Four Horsemen of Retirement, Poor Recruitment, Australasia and Brexit, is a merely a minor inconvenience. Something that certain Americans might term an ‘alternative fact’.

So - a narrow miss for St Jeremy on his ‘miracle of finding the five thousand’ this time around.

And, who knows, Our Great Leader might not even be given the health brief next time round. After more than four and a half years in the job, he might be redeployed to a different role that plays to his many considerable strengths. Perhaps there’s already a job with his name on it. A little post along the lines of 'Minister For Looking Like A Smarmy Mannequin with Special Portfolio in Vacuous Platitudes'.

Or perhaps he'll run with the instruction he was reported to have received from Conservative HQ during the junior doctor strikes - the top brass apparently told him the required approach was to be 'deeply muscular'.

The Deeply Muscular Man could be coming to a travelling circus near you.

Realistically though, it probably is time for Theresa May to shuffle her joker to the bottom of the pack.

If I were to advise the next health secretary, I would advise him or her to be a bit less optimistic about the number of GPs that might be lured into the bear-pit of Primary Care.

Despite a flurry of headlines promising an ‘Army of New Doctors’, the message is likely to come that we’re just going to have to manage with the personnel we’ve currently got.

So - you guessed it - that means of course that everyone is going to have work that little bit harder. Again.

Rumour has it that there is still a lot of slack in the system. You only have to shadow a GP for a day to see how that’s the case. I’m sure deep down, you know that I speak the truth.

I’ve taken the liberty of making the next health secretary’s job easier by doing a quick back-of-an-envelope calculation to prove how we might conjure the equivalent of 5,000 new GPs out of thin air, simply by making the existing 30,000 or so GPs work that little bit harder.

We can reclaim the following amount of ‘dead’ time:

  • Time spent nipping to the toilet (10 minutes x 30,000 = 5,000 hours; Catheters for all).
  • Time spent repeatedly banging your head against the desk at the hopelessness of it all (5 minutes x 30,000 = 2,500 hours; Ban desks).
  • Time spent ranting on social media about how bloody awful Jeremy Hunt is (15 minutes x 30,000 = 7,500 hours; Ban social media for GPs).
  • Time spent crying (10 minutes x 30,000 = 5,000 hours; Compulsory SSRIs in the drinking water).

That may not quite be 5,000 new GPs yet, but you get the idea.

Exciting times ahead then. Let’s get the champagne on ice for 8 June and, for old time’s sake prepare to give a great big Moet-Medic send off to Dr Spooner's all-time favourite politician, our Glorious Outgoing Leader, the kind, caring Mr Jeremy Hunt.

  • Dr Tom Jones (pictured) is vice chair of the GP Survival group and a partner near Manchester

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