Notes & links for Pulse article 2: Andy Burnham goes to the King’s Fund

Andy Burnham’s trip to the King’ Fund: for BBC online article including video clip of Burnham’s announcement about GP practice boundaries, and audio clip of Today Programme interview with Laurence Buckman, click here

His visit was trailed in the press the day before:

‘Andy Burnham will say the abolition of GP practice boundaries will improve the “patient experience” and make the NHS “great” again.’ Nursing TimesEthiopian Review Health Service Journal

The only media outlet I have found that saw through Andy Burnham’s spin was the Dunblane Cathedral Magazine

* * * *

‘Under current rules patients can only sign up with a GP within defined boundaries close to their home. This means that less well-off patients are forced to sign up with surgeries in deprived areas, and are barred from using doctors in more affluent areas unless they live in a mixed-income area.’ from The Guardian.

Comment: It is not clear from the article where this came from. Did Andy Burnham actually make the claim that under his new regime poorer patients would be able to access GP surgeries in more affluent areas, or was this extrapolated by the two Guardian journalists? In any event, like almost all the assertions made about this policy, once you scratch the surface, it is quite meaningless. In reality, if ‘less well-off’ patients can get on the bus or hitchhike to a more affluent area, they will get pretty much the same care as they would in their own neighbourhood. The GPs in affluent areas are no more clever than those in deprived areas; the services to which they refer will be the same; the guidelines under which the GPs are working are the same; the hospital choice for referrals will be the same. The waiting room might be cleaner. But how will the patients in Kensington feel about patients arriving from neighbouring, less affluent boroughs? It’s just nonsense, gibberish. Did the journalists not realise this? I have tried to contact them, but no answer.

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Niall Dickson and the King’s Fund. By the time I was looking into this, Niall Dickson had moved to the GMC as Chief Executive. I tried emailing him to asked him to amplify on his comments. No answer. Recently, in preparing this set of articles, I sent him a recorded delivery letter. One of his office staff responded, pointing out that his comment was when he was CEO of the King’s Fund, and it had nothing to do with the GMC, and added some evasive remarks about how the current Pilot (see article number 5) will address these issues. I emailed the King’s Fund, asking for their present position. Read my email exchange with the King’s Fund.

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‘By December 2011 the opposition health spokesman, Burnham, remained fully behind abolishing practice boundaries and chastised the Government for being too slow to implement the policy.’ I have tried, with some persistence, to arrange an interview with Mr Burnham, but without success. What is he afraid of?’

It is worth quoting some of the words Burnham used in the interview with GP Business in the above link:

‘while he [Burnham] understood the technical and operational concerns GPs hold, he claimed they are largely being used to “fudge the issue”.’ He said: “You either agree with the reform or you don’t and as a principle, practice boundary abolition is unanswerable.”

Burnham thinks people like me are ‘fudging the issue’. Next week’s article concerns Andy Burnham’s ‘Consultation’ with the English people. Fudge, deception? You decide.

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‘I have tried, with some persistence, to arrange an interview with Mr Burnham, but without success. What is he afraid of?’ I emailed Andy Burnham a number of times in July 2012, asking for time for an interview on this issue. No answer. I tried again after the summer recess: no answer. My editor at Pulse tried, again no answer. I rang his office in Westminster and spoke with one of his staff. It became evident that this staff member was aware of my emails and muttered about Mr Burnham being busy, and yes they should be able to arrange something for the latter half of October, and the diary secretary would contact me. No communication followed. I emailed him again to chase this: no answer. Unanswerable?

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