The NHS has improved, but at the expense of its workforce
At the DoH’s Christmas bash for journalists last month,
health secretary Andy Burnham confidently described the NHS as ‘Labour’s trump
So it was interesting visiting DoH HQ this month
to interview the health secretary, passing billboards of David Cameron’s giant
face – looking all sincere and worried about the NHS – and carrying poll results in my bag showing that most GPs now prefer
Conservative health policy.
To his credit, Andy resisted laying into the opposition at
this politically frantic time. Perhaps he’s delegated that job to health
minister Mike O’Brien, who’d attacked the Tories with relish to me the previous
Instead the health secretary ordered one of his aides to
rush off and print a GP poll from
2009 which showed that 63% of the profession thought primary care had
improved over the last decade.
It is clear that Labour has made a huge investment in the
NHS since 1997, and their list of achievements is enviable. But the health secretary
shouldn’t think he can brush off the concerns of the England’s 8,000-plus GPs with one
statistic that says general practice has got better since the dark days of the
late 90′s. He admitted morale is low, but seemed to think that as long as the
statistics show the NHS is improving, the profession can’t argue with the
Ignore GPs’ morale at your peril, I say. Low morale leads
to low recruitment and retention, and if the government is serious about moving
more and more services into primary care, we need more GPs, not less, and they
need to be enthusiastic about their job.