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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Cautious commendation for Rhondda MP's health check

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant should be congratulated for getting-out of the Westminster bubble and spending time with the dedicated and hard-working medical professionals that serve his constituents.

Like Chris Bryant, BMA Cymru Wales has called for a ‘revolution’ in primary care. We agree there’s a desperate need for resources to be pumped into GP surgeries and for a major awareness campaign to educate patients on how best to access NHS services.

However, some of Chris Bryant’s comments regarding GP clinics need greater scrutiny and discussion. Yes - salaried GPs have a role in meeting shortfalls in places like the Rhondda - but whether they are the golden bullet to help solve all of primary care’s problems, we are yet to be convinced.

Politicians might also do well to reflect on the reasons why the UK Government supported GPs giving up responsibility for their patients outside of normal working hours.

The increasing feminisation of the workforce, matched by the desire for greater work-life balance was intended to make the job as a GP a more attractive option, at a time when general practice was becoming an increasingly unpopular choice. More importantly, it ensured that GPs weren’t carrying out consultations and making decisions on potentially life-saving matters, with just a few hours sleep.

Finally, whether patients have to take a day-off work to see their doctor is also worthy of greater discussion. Rather than focus on extended hours, perhaps we should be asking why employers make it difficult for their employees to take time off to see their doctor and whether their duty of care should include the health of their workforce.

However, one thing that is clear is that politicians and clinicians want to see NHS Wales deliver the best possible care for our respective constituents. Perhaps if all politicians took the time and effort to engage directly with clinicians, like Chris Bryant, we would end up with policies that suit politicians, clinicians and more importantly the Welsh public.

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