Notes to accompany Pulse Article 4: Why is the press so compliant?

The notes are to accompany my article published in Pulse on 30/11/12. The text will appear in the blog on 7/12/12.

The Department of Health’s press release, December 30, 2011. I suggest you read this through, and then look at the articles that were published:


A Westminster GP Ruth O’Hare said:

“This initiative will mean that commuters working in the heart of London will in future have far greater flexibility around their choice of GP, enabling some to choose to see a GP closer to where they work.

“I welcome this exciting initiative which the Department of Health is resourcing as it offers patients greater access to NHS care at a time and place that is convenient to them.”
See my email exchange with Dr O’Hare

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.


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.


‘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.


‘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?

Notes to accompany Pulse article 1

These are notes and links to back up my article published by Pulse

I wrote to MPs…

1. In the spring of 2010 I emailed the then shadow health minister Andrew Lansley. The Government consultation ‘Your Choice of GP Practice’ had just been launched. I knew Lansley was in favour of this policy and I wanted to see if he had thought through the implications. He had not. Click here for My Email Exchange with ‘Andrew Lansley’.

2. I started writing emails to MPs, one letter at a time (all the A’s, then B’s etc). The letters were different, but with a similar underlying message: GP practice boundaries do actually serve a purpose, do you understand what you are proposing?
One MP replied. Click here to read the exchange.


3. I wrote to the King’s Fund…

My exchange with the King’s Fund


4. None of the replies addressed the very basic issues I raised. None of it added up.

For example, this reply from the DH, and my reply.


5. You have Costa Coffee cafés, now you have Virgin Care GP surgeries next door.

Check this


 6. Let us say, hypothetically of course, that you had a Department of Health that had over time become influenced by the thinking of organisations like the global consultancy firm McKinsey….

See this.

See also the book Plot Against the NHS by Colin Leys and Stewart Player.

For a transcript of a lecture by Leys

And see this


7. if you can have a docile, compliant press who do not understand the ecology of general practice…

This is the topic for the fourth article in this series.