Hurrah! Politicians listening to what the public wants

Whether the GP 'Challenge Fund' actually works is another matter

Share

This newspaper’s weekend revelation that the Prime Minister will unveil a £50m “Challenge Fund” package designed to enable over 1,000 GP surgeries to start offering patients evening and weekend appointments is that rarest of things: politicians meeting a genuine demand from the population or whom this is a major frustration and bugbear.

Getting a doctor’s appointment when we actually want one has become harder than getting a table at a top restaurant. Regular readers will know I’m not one of those “it’s not like the good old days” writers, but in this respect, GP services really were more accessible back in my day – ie when my Ma needed the late, great Dr Morris to come over in his classic Rover P6 (how posh) and see me, a patient he’d known all my life. Perhaps too, as I had known him all my life, I might relax and help him in the relative security of my own home to diagnose first my tonsillitis and then my burst appendix.

Whether the fund actually delivers or not is another matter. GPs themselves are reluctant to return to out-of-hours appointments. That said, if you talk to whichever of the hard-working doctors I get in the practice (no familiar names these days), they are so depressed by their own conveyor-belt service.

Enforced expanded opening hours is a rare  Government intervention that the general population would welcome. It set me wondering why whichever government is in power (remember it was the “NHS is safe in our hands” Labour Party that allowed GPs to opt out of out-of-hours in 2004) doesn’t try to solve some of our more obvious problems more often. Sadly, we all know the answer: it’s the politics, stupid. It’s as if politics is now a ‘thing’ in its own right that exists beyond the requirement of our politicians to represent and serve our needs.

The same inescapable observation came to me  watching last week’s Question Time. The WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell rang rings around the politicians on the panel, including the new Culture Secretary Sajid David and an off-her-game Harriet Harman, via the lethal combination of a. actually knowing what he was talking about on economic matters, and b. not taking a knee-jerk party position on every issue. It left me wondering which way Sorrell, who I have known for 20+ years, actually votes.

Let’s pick a subject: the housing market. It is obvious to everyone, not just in the South East, that there a scary price bubble has developed, particularly in London – not just in the sales market but for renting. It’s apparent to all bar David, it seems, as long as the party line is to deny it. When that bubble pops it will have disastrous consequences, not only for London but the whole country. The obvious answer is to build more houses. Everyone talks about it, but we’re not really doing it – whatever Boris Johnson says - because it’s not just any old houses we need, it’s affordable houses. Simple?

What we look for in our politicians is some conviction yes, but more important is leadership, competence and empathy; a sense they really understand what the population needs, and are prepared to actually do something about it, above and beyond party politics. Is that really so much to ask?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soft Developer (4.0, C#, Windows Services, Sockets, LINQ, WCF)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer (4.0, C#, Windows ...

C# Developer -Winforms, VB6 - Trading Systems - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading financial software house with its He...

C #Programmer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#) -Hertfordshire-Finance

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C #Developer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#, A...

JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Tr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The 'caliphate'? We’ve heard Obama’s language of the Crusades before

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home