Last spring the RCGP invited members to write in with their views to the Government’s so-called consultation ‘Your Choice of GP Practice’. The College said they were going to respond to the consultation and wanted to know our views. I sent my thoughts on April 5, a few days after the deadline. As this particular issue is dear to my heart, I awaited the College response. If there was a publication date, I missed it. Over the summer, I searched for it on the College site but could find no mention of it. On December 11, 2010 I emailed the College asking about it. No answer. I emailed again 1 week later and got an acknowledgement, saying they were passing it to the ‘policy team’. Then no answer. On 16/1/11 I emailed again. No answer. On 3/2/11 I emailed again, this time with a longer email, asking why I was having such a hard time getting an answer to a very simple question. I received a response the next day, giving me some links. One link was old and no longer functioning. The other link did not actually give me the document I was seeking but did take me to a page that, with some protracted searching, led me to the document I was seeking. So here, for those interested, is a link to the document.
It is a good enough document and covers most of the areas I would have hoped and is pretty unequivocal: abolishing practice areas will create problems and undermine quality general practice. Let me quote paragraph 3:
Only a few of our members were positive about the proposals. An overwhelming percentage (approximately 75%) of our members who responded to this consultation were strongly against the proposals to allow people to register with any GP regardless of catchment area, because of their serious concerns about the potential impacts of this change for the health services provided for patients. Those members who recognised some merits in principal to the proposal also raised a number of serious concerns about the potential implications of the proposals. Our members often did not reply to the specific questions posed for patients in the back of the survey document: the questions were seen as ‘leading’ – implying a positive response to the basic proposal from the start, and thus not allowing respondents to express a strong negative opinion. It also in effect stops members of the public from expressing satisfaction with the status quo.
In my response to the College in April 2010, I wrote:
Please, please produce a rigorous, strongly argued and fulsome response to this madness. Publish some sort of document and send it to every MP, and publish it online so the public can read it. The difficulty is that from the public’s point of view what’s not to like about this idea. It is just when the idea meets reality that the problems become evident.
The College reponse is good enough. By this I mean the document. The College response, in the wider sense of the word, is, in my view, almost non-existent. My suggestion that they send it to every MP and publish it online so the public can read it has certainly not been followed. Quite the contrary: I, a fee-paying member of the RCGP with a special interest in this issue, have struggled to get my hands on this document.
If you check the Home page of the RCGP today you will see all sorts of stuff about courses, conferences, revalidation, and so on. There is nothing about the Health and Social Care Bill. Why is there not a box somewhere on the home page, with links to other pages? If a politician were to try to do her or his job conscientiously and seek information from the RCGP website, they would find….nothing. What does the College think of the proposal to abolish practice areas? Do they have a view? It can’t be an important issue, so why are a few people making such a fuss?
Because the College is failing in this quite basic responsibility, I am laboriously emailing each MP with a link to this document. I am half way through the B’s.
One of the items that gets centre stage on the Home page is an appeal for funds for the new college site in Euston Square. I for one will not be giving anything for this. RCGP, if you are listening, I do not think you are doing your job. You are hibernating. If you put a an eye-catching link on the Home page to some useful stuff for journalists, politicians, DOH, and members of the public to see, then I will make a donation.