Editorial: A stand-off will not help the NHS

The spectacle of the Health Secretary and the leader of Britain's GPs facing off is not only unedifying, it's also no route to a solution for the NHS

Share

Like prize fighters, the Health Secretary and the leader of Britain’s GPs squared up to each other yesterday – albeit on opposite sides of town.

At the King’s Fund, Jeremy Hunt painted a vivid picture of dysfunctional GP practices in which doctors do not know their patients’ names, appointments are difficult to come by, and out-of-hours services are patchy at best.

Meanwhile, at the British Medical Association annual GPs’ conference, Laurence Buckman fumed at the Health Secretary’s “bashing doctors” and “spouting rubbish” about the causes of the crisis in A&E departments.

The spectacle of such heavyweights facing off so aggressively is not only an unedifying one. It is also no route to a solution for the knotty problems facing our health services.

There is plenty of history between the Government and the medics. The BMA is one of the most powerful lobbies in the land, with the result that health secretaries have, historically, worked hard to keep doctors on-side. Hence, for example, the Labour government’s over-generous contract with GPs in 2004.

Mr Hunt has no such sensitivities. And, given the BMA’s politically disastrous strike over pensions last year – which was roundly opposed by the general public – he may sense that now is the time to redress the balance.

While it is appealing to couch the problems with A&E solely in terms of family doctors’ shrunken responsibilities, and it is true that the BMA has more clout than perhaps it should, neither is the whole story here. These are highly complex issues, touching everything from the ageing population to the rising proportion of female GPs. Neither simple arguments, nor simple solutions will do.

What is certain is that a stand-off helps no one. It is time for Mr Hunt to soften up and for the BMA to calm down. The problems facing emergency health services – both GPs’ out-of-hours and hospital A&E – will only be solved by a negotiated settlement. It will not be easy but our lives may – literally – depend on it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions