Last night I was at a meeting where the new GP Out of Hours Provider company were making their pitch. They have been awarded a contract to offer night and weekend GP services to the citizens of Borsetshire starting this October, and so are in the final run up to their takeover.
The mouthpiece for their organization is a tall, chiseled type, with blond and elegantly coiffed locks, in a shiny suit with a lavender shirt and tie. He just oozes “Used Car Salesman”-ness. And his pitch is flawlessly reassuring. Patients making contact out of hours will first be answered by expert call handlers who will speedily ascertain the patients ID and contact details before passing them on to a clinician. If all clinicians are busy and they do not have an over-ridingly urgent problem, then their details will be held until the first such clinician is available to call them back, and their target will be to return these calls within x minutes, where x is a vanishingly small number. Once they have spoken to a clinican, those that need to be seen will be offered a speedy appointment at the nearest centre, or visited at home if housebound.
The new providers are committed to training, and to staff development. They will even help little old ladies to cross the road, pop in at night to fix them their tea and biccies, and tuck them in and read them a story before bye-byes. (Well o.k. I might have slightly embellished the last few points.)
Over all though, an impressive performance by a polished (almost literally so) performer. That is, until we get the specimen rota for the service they are offering. In retrospect (having had the chance to sleep on it I suppose) it should have been obvious from Mr Smooth’s choice of words. Like Humpty Dumpty before him (and I believe as I have also said previously like myself in my turn) Mr S’s words mean what he chooses them to mean. To you and I, hitherto, I suspect the word clinician would have conjured up the image of a proper professional. Probably a Doctor, or, at the very least, a Nurse Practitioner with a higher level of expertise that the standard nursing qualification. It appears to this hallowed band of guardians of the common health and wellbeing we must now also admit the ECP.
“?” you ask, as well you might, and as we all did…
“ECP” says our lad, undaunted. “That’s Emergency Care Practitioner”.
“??” we chorus.
This brave new breed will be at the forefront of our overhauled out of hours services. Without wishing to in any way denigrate this noble calling, the ECP job description is essentially written for a paramedic with a bit of extra training in emergency care—perhaps 2-3 years training after school / college as a minimum, compared to the eight years required of GPs in training.
So, the best advice I can offer the citizens of Ambridge, is to try not to get ill out of hours anytime this winter, as instead of a guaranteed encounter with a GP as we used to offer they are now faced with a one in three chance of being left in the, doubtless entirely capable, hands of an ECP n’octor.
*N'octor-- increasingly accepted contraction for the phrase "Not-a-doctor"