The frontline of the NHS is not a happy place to be at present. Practice closures are on the rise, resulting in more than 200,000 patients being displaced from their surgeries last year. And GPs are feeling so downtrodden that a recent extraordinary meeting of local medical committees (LMCs) has just agreed to canvas family doctors on submitting undated resignations unless a successful rescue package is negotiated within the next six months.
Sound familiar? It should. Pharmacy budgets are being slashed, leading to dire warnings about large numbers of pharmacists having to shut up shop. The sense of dismay runs so deep that some pharmacists have talked of strike action as the only way to articulate their concerns.
The trouble is, of course, that GPs are very unlikely to hand in unsigned resignations. And pharmacists are unlikely to go on strike, either. Even the most militant realise that there are simply too many practical, political and philosophical barriers in the way. But the fact that these ideas are even entertained says something about how profoundly disaffected us frontline staff are. We’re thinking the unthinkable simply because we have no other way of vocalising our frustration at constantly feeling undervalued. The decision-makers, it seems, simply don’t appreciate what we do.
So perhaps we need the opposite of a strike. Instead, we could welcome the policymakers to a typical day in our surgeries and pharmacies so they can see, first hand, the work we do and how it benefits patients. Maybe this – education rather than confrontation – is the only way to open their eyes to the value of dedicated, frontline staff.
I genuinely believe that the way things are going, the only time the politicians will realise what they have is when they lose it.
My door – and I imagine yours – is always open. To patients, to politicians. But, given the current climate, I won’t hold my breath.