Diary

Random absurdities in primary care medicine and beyond. 

LAUNCHING a new magazine can be a lonely business. You look up from your desk after a long day – weary and dispirited – and think to yourself: something’s missing here. Then comes the realisation – that missing factor, dear reader, is you. In putting Practice Manager first to print there is no one yet to point out those ‘its’ versus ‘it’s’ errors, no terse emails exposing our use of ‘practice’ instead of ‘practise’ (what was the difference anyway, must look that up again). So welcome now with hopes that next issue you’ll be well onboard to keep us on our game – and also to provide some interesting items for this diary. Now on to important matters.

JUST in time for Christmas, toys have been banned in Wales. Well not in all of Wales, just in some practice waiting rooms – and for good reason. Dr Charlotte Jones, a GP in Swansea said: "I’ve had all the books and most toys removed from our surgery to reduce the chance of transmission of infections, such as swine flu and measles, after studies have shown they can be passed on through touching toys. We removed the magazines too because droplets can live on them for a few hours and they are a potential source of infection." Will such Spartan measures work? A consultant epidemiologist for the National Public Health Service for Wales isn’t convinced. Dr Brendan Mason said: "The most important method of preventing the spread of the infection is to encourage frequent hand washing with soap and water and frequent cleaning of hard surfaces." One might also suggest banning patients – if that plan wasn’t already well in hand.

MORE interesting news for the nation’s children from experts at the University of Southern Denmark. Their report in The Lancet this month reckons British children born in 2007 have a 50 per cent chance of living until they’re 103. And for those who baulked at the thought of the retirement age increasing from 65 to 66, spare a thought for these young folk who may have to work until they’re 80 just to meet the financial burden that will inevitably be placed on the healthcare system. Mind you, enterprising scientists at the University of Leeds might hold the answer. They’ve just announced a £50 million, five-year programme to build human spare parts. Before you ask, this is not a hoax from someone who has watched too many episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man. If they’re successful, we could one day be typing our emails using a bionic hand and walking around on a man-made hip joint that’ll never wear out. Although, if all of that is just a ploy to keep us working until we’re 80 then perhaps it’s not such a good idea after all…

A TRUE sign that practices should never give up on a patient comes from 102-year-old Winnie Langley who has finally quit smoking – after a mere 95 years of puffing. The remarkable pensioner from Croydon, South London, had her first ciggie in 1914 and has apparently given up the habit because she just "didn’t fancy it any more". That’s a long time to wait to boost your QOF score.

NHS CHOICES has recently been trumpeting the success of its new online facility for patients to rate GP practices and provide feedback. The site received more than 1,600 comments within 24 hours of going live last month. Most patients (80 per cent) answered yes to a question asking whether they would recommend their practice to a friend. But that still leaves hundreds not so encouraging. Among the comments logged so far were: "I've experienced a broad spectrum of NHS primary health care. Without a doubt this practice is by far the very best…" But there was also: "The hellish combination of entering what feels like a portakabin to be welcomed by a sea of leaflets and posters which peer out from the low level lighting is enough to induce a feeling of dread on each and every visit". Dear me.

FOR those looking to brighten up their practice, perhaps think twice before encouraging staff to belt out their favourite chart songs. Shop worker Sandra Burt from Clackmannan near Stirling had a close call with the Performing Right Society (PRS) who decided her daily 'outbursts of joy' constituted live public performances and demanded she pay for a licence. They even warned she could be taken to court if she didn’t stop serenading customers. Luckily they came to their senses and apologised for their over-zealous approach. But it might be worth warning any practice staff member who enjoys a sing-song to check none of the patients are PRS members.

AND FINALLY to a consultation document recently published by the Department of Health on proposals to give patients personal health budgets allowing them to spend NHS money on ‘non-traditional’ services such as complementary therapies, respite care, equipment or transport. Pilot schemes are expected to involve GPs across England helping patients draw up care plans to allocate money from the budgets. One curious item in the consultation states that the regulations should exclude direct payments being spent on "alcohol, tobacco, gambling or debt repayment". Perhaps it is best to make such minor caveats explicit.

From Practice Manager Issue 01 Winter 2009, pp 15

Practice Manager 01
Click here for PDF of this issue of Practice Manager