When Nye Bevan was asked how he managed to win the doctors round to cooperating with the creation of the NHS he famously replied that he had "stuffed their mouths with gold". Yes, the doctors always have a pragmatic solution on offer.
This time, with winter coming on and heating bills on the front pages for weeks, suddenly we are warned that A&E will be chokka with the elderly as soon as it turns cold. Disaster for the coalition looms. But what's this, do we hear the clinical cavalry riding to the rescue ? Yes, right on cue the doctors are to get new contracts, under which, says Jeremy Hunt "all NHS patients over the age of 75 must be assigned a named, accountable GP who will oversee their care".
Remarkable ! Is there an over-75 in the land who doesn't have a named GP ? Is there anyone ? (Aside from those not actually eligible for NHS care, who just stride into A&E or a walk-in centre anyhow.) And does this mean house visits as in days of yore, or out-of-hours attention from the GP ? Errr, no - but the GP must 'monitor the effectiveness' of other agencies' out-of-hours provision. That'll keep the over 75s in their own beds.
And for this new contract, minister, what about the money you'll be giving them? Turns out, that's not what we might call transparent: it's certainly not mentioned in this short guide to what's going on. Or this one. And Jeremy Hunt is a bit oblique here, too. “The public will know what salaries GPs are taking home for NHS work. This will give the Government more confidence to hand more funds to GPs in future.”
And the timetable for all this change ? Will it be in place by, say, the end of the month in time for the really cold weather ? Nope: it commences April 2014. And publishing the salaries ? That'll be 2015-16.