Random absurdities in primary care medicine and beyond.

  • Date: 01 June 2010

ELECTION over, credit crunch, swine flu, snow drifts now just dim memories and issue 02 of Practice Manager in the bag – it’s all giddy optimism here at the Diary. Let’s quickly dispel that.

WE love it when the English language is enriched with new words to describe stuff you might never have thought needed description. Here we would like to highlight a term encountered in a new report by The Work Foundation – ‘presenteeism’. Think ‘absenteeism’ but imagine all those unwell people turning up for work anyway and “seemingly intentionally or through disengagement” not performing their best. It’s also referred to as ‘sickness presence’ and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more prevalent than absenteeism: “45 per cent of employees reported one or more days of sickness presence compared with 18 per cent reporting sickness absence over the same period”. In fact I think I’ll just put my head down now for a minute or two so you can read the report at www.theworkfoundation.com.

KEEPING to the topic of sickies – one half of Diary (at least) is gratified to report that the phenomenon known as ‘man flu’ is no joke. Researchers at the University of Cambridge are proposing that men have weaker immune systems due to evolutionary factors and hormonal differences. Their theory is that high levels of testosterone make males more susceptible to coughs and colds thus leading to a trade-off between a strong immune system and reproductive success. But a leading flu expert (probably a woman) says there is no difference in men's immunity.

TO COINCIDE with ‘No Smoking Day’ the Department of Health has launched an official NHS ‘Quit Smoking’ application for the iPhone. With a touch of the screen it provides daily hints and tips on how to manage cravings and keeps a running tally of how much money quitters have saved since kicking the habit. It also provides a direct link to a stop-smoking helpline for some instant encouragement. Let’s just hope it’s more successful than the NHS drinks tracker application released in December of last year. This was launched to allow iPhone users to keep track of drink consumed in alcoholic units so as to discourage people overindulging. Within days of the tracker being released it was being described on the internet as an “awesome game” with users trying to beat their “top score”.

DIARY would like to extend congratulations to dentist Rob McNeil and his staff as music mogul Simon Cowell recently dedicated his gong for Most Popular Talent Show at the National TV Awards to “his dentist” – presumably because of his blindingly bright-white smile. Who says the man has the sense of humour of a spider.

A RECENT item on the Management in Practice website reported how a GP in Cumbria has appeared before a GMC disciplinary panel over claims he was aggressive and foulmouthed to his practice manager and other staff – all women. A reader added her feedback below the article: “When I first came into the NHS two years ago one of my colleagues who had apparently regularly bullied the previous manager tried it with me in front of other colleagues. I pointed out that she was wrong (she was) and insisted that she yell her apology across the room as loudly as she had her abuse. I am a short mixed race woman in my late 50s, so have got used to dealing with would-be bullies. I always insist on an apology in the same manner as any aggro I get”. Diary says “good on you”!

CLEVER new £1.5million plans to easily identify nurses in Wales seem to have backfired thanks to irritating new uniforms. Two health trusts decided to bring in colourcoded outfits to make it easier for patients to spot different grades of NHS staff. The only problem is the fabric has caused skin irritation in a number of wearers, meaning some of the shiny new clothing items might have to be abandoned in favour of alternatives. A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman described the development as “disappointing”. And reports have since emerged of similar problems with new uniforms in Scotland. I suppose that’s one way for patients to easily spot the nurses – they’d be the ones scratching those big rashes all over their arms.

RECENTLY Dr David Haslam had a few harsh words to say in regard to the system of paying GPs to compile lists of obese patients. He told the Tackling Obesity 2010 conference in London that the QOF meant he was “incentivised to identify fat people and make a list of them, and with the list do absolutely nothing – but when they come back a year later, weigh them to make sure they are still fat enough that I continue to get paid”.

AND FINALLY – just having a data protection policy is sometimes not enough. A report on the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) website tells how a USB data stick used routinely to back-up clinical administrative databases went missing from Her Majesty's Prison Preston. A thorough search never turned up the data stick which held medical details relating to over 6000 patients who were or had been incarcerated at the prison. It later emerged that the data stick had indeed been encrypted but unfortunately the password had been attached to the device on a slip of paper.

From Practice Manager Issue 02 Summer 2010, pp 15

Practice Manager 02
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Practice Manager is published twice yearly and distributed to MDDUS practice managers and others with management responsibility in dental and medical surgeries. It features articles on employment law, health and safety, risk as well as profiles of practices across the UK. Browse our current and back issues below.
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