The health service exists not for the doctors it employs but for the patients who fund it. This seems a pretty uncontroversial statement, yet when 90% of GPs have chosen to make themselves unavailable to patients outside the weekday hours of 8am to 6.30pm whilst enjoying an average salary of £118,000 a year, it seems clear that in practice the system is set up for the convenience of doctors not patients.
No one denies that our doctors do an excellent job or that high salaries are needed to ensure the NHS is able to recruit and maintain the best doctors, but it seems absurd that it is the patients that have to fit doctors into their own schedule rather than doctors fitting their schedule around patients. Not only is the system incredibly inconvenient but research by the CBI shows that it costs UK businesses 38 million working hours a year at a cost of £1 billion.
The system is clearly in need of reform. To this end the CBI offers a number of interesting recommendations. That patients should be allowed to register with more than one GP so that, for example, they can have a surgery near both their house and workplace, that pharmacists should take a greater role in treating basic ailments like colds, that GPs should have at least some of their funding based on patient reviews, and that it should be easier for patients to switch GPs all seem like sensible suggestions. Ultimately, these reforms would allow for greater innovation and flexibility in the system along with an incentive structure to ensure that such a system is provided.
Taxpayers will no longer tolerate their money being used to fund rigid, monolithic public services which do not cater to their needs. They demand a flexible user-based system which is innovative enough to cater for their diverse needs. The CBI’s suggestions would help to create such a system.