Making more of the GP racket

The NHS is perpetually under-funded; the sick will always be with us, however inconvenient that may be, and there are more and more of them every day.

We are also constantly finding new and increasingly expensive ways to torture them.

No matter how much money we pour in, we will always come up short of expectations.

So finding new ways of raising cash is a solemn duty for all of us, and towards this end I've had a great idea.

When a patient joins our practice, I should make a house call, to introduce myself and our services, you might say.

As I leave, I'll say: 'I'll be happy to see you anytime.' Then, after a meaningful and subliminally threatening pause: 'Or maybe not, know what I mean? Nice house, isn't it?' Then I accidentally-on-purpose knock over a vase and say:'Gosh, look at that; accidents can happen so easily, can't they?'

Cynical people might describe this as a protection racket, a practice long endorsed by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland and shady but lovable geezers in the London ganglands, but I prefer to give it a much more legitimate and acceptable designation.

When we buy a car or a house, what are we expected to also buy, without a word of protest? What are each and every one of us GPs paying over four grand a year for? That's right - insurance.

Our medical defence insurance is (perhaps) a necessary evil and, as would be considered acceptable and normal practice in any other business, these costs have of necessity to be passed on to the client.

Any money raised, after expenses (big shiny car, plasma TV, retainers to cocaine-fuelled enforcers, etc) have been deducted would of course be reinvested in the practice (hard and uninviting plastic chairs for the waiting room, big signs 'your car is parked here at your own risk,' etc), so everybody's a winner.

What is needed is a public relations campaign, so that patients can see the many advantages of this kind of 'insurance'.

This would help prevent any misunderstandings, spare us much unpleasantness, and allow appropriate allocation of scarce NHS resources.

The less time GPs have to spend standing outside people's homes at night supervising a small army of drug-crazed thugs, the more time we have to do the job we were trained to do.

Which is, of course, is to see patients.

Or maybe not.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com.

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