Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Collective Accolade

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail via this newspaper’s office. It came from a local resident who knew me from many years ago when we were both serving Queen and Country. (Well, ok, I admit that much of that was whilst also enjoying a weekend or two under green canvas out in the English countryside, or suffering the rigours of postings to far-flung places like Gibraltar. Nonetheless, our spirit was in it.)

Anyway, this old acquaintance of mine had taken the kindly trouble to write with his own reflections regarding the National Health Service and the selfless dedication of those who enter the caring professions; this being sparked by his own knowledge of a young person set upon entering the medical profession. As someone whose retirement is sitting on the horizon, it is reassuring to me to know that enthusiastic young people are likely to be qualifying as doctors just at the time when I might need them in my dotage. However, in true Ronnie-Corbett-style, I digress. The point is that the e-mail ended with the following comment: ‘I'd be grateful if you could give a firm and well-deserved pat on the back to all serving "medics" in your excellent column’. Humbly forgoing the reference to my column, I therefore hereby thank you for your gracious words, kind Sir, on behalf of all my Northern Lincolnshire medical and nursing colleagues.

The reason I have chosen to include my reader-correspondent’s comment this week is that it times well with the publication of the findings of a review by the Commonwealth Fund International Surveys, called ‘How Does the UK Perform? Improving the Quality of Primary Care: An International Perspective’. This presents a very different picture of Primary Care (General Practice) to that constantly being put about by politicians hell-bent on undermining the morale of health professionals in general, and GPs in particular. The findings make for interesting reading and should offer some reassurance to our community that we (the doctors and nurses) really are trying our best on your behalf.

Whilst noting that the NHS is not particularly good when it comes to easy communication across the various sites of the NHS, or in respect to the time available to spend with patients, it did have the following positive comments:

Compared to other countries, the NHS has the second lowest health spending per capita; the lowest ‘cost related access problems’ to primary care; the joint best same or next day access to general practitioners; the least difficulty in accessing out of hours care without needing to attend A&E; the best access to out of hours care (with noticeable improvement in recent years); the highest access to online repeats and appointments; the least hassle in getting patients needed medications or treatment; the highest scores for management of chronic diseases; is joint second in use of information technology; and is highest in reviewing patient data and outcomes. The review concluded in stating that the UK stands out and performs at the top (or near the top) of the range for many of the above aspects of care.

So, ‘serving medics’, there is your public pat on the back as requested from my correspondent. Well done. Now get off your laurels and go back to work…

First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 9 May 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013

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