Monday, January 01, 2007

Physcians as Theocrats

Nick Cohen on British GPs. So much for MD accountablity and performance measures.
For instance, it feels almost blasphemous to criticise doctors. With the decline of religion, they have replaced the clergy as confessors and comforters. The media still treat them as the protectors of the NHS’s soul, even though the money they are sucking out of the service has put at risk the future of health care free at the point of delivery. British GPs are now the best paid in Europe. Their average annual income is £106,000, while a few are making £250,000.

As ‘Dr Crippen’, the anonymous author of the NHS Blog Doctor site, put it: ‘The really high-achieving entrepreneurial GPs do not waste time seeing patients. They employ others to do that… the extra money has been earned by hitting government targets [which] have little to do with health care, but a lot to do with “process” and bogus but quantifiable “healthcare achievements”.’

The Department of Health’s blundering has overpaid GPs by £300m a year, about half the current deficit of the NHS. A scandal? Not if you read a medical press that defends the phenomenal rise of GPs’ salaries as furiously as the Daily Telegraph defends Goldman Sachs bonuses. When Nicholas Timmins of the FT wrote a mild piece for the British Medical Journal that politely asked whether GPs deserved their pay rise, furious correspondents thundered that CEOs got huge salaries, so why shouldn’t they.