Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bright Guy, Our Albert!

Anybody who is interested in quotations will be aware of how many good ones there are from Albert Einstein. One of my favourite Einstein quotations is

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
Believe it or not, this statement has a lot of relevance to my job as a general practitioner.

As you might expect under a New Labour regime, the New GP Contract includes lots of targets and other hoops for practices to jump through. To the consternation of the Department of Health, GPs have proven rather good at meeting these targets, and incomes have risen, as a result, more than The Powers That Be had expected. Unfortunately stress levels within practices have undoubtedly increased as well. We are having the first of our QOF (Quality and Outcomes Framework) Visits this week. This is presented as a "touchy feely" supportive exercise, but we are fully aware that it's aim is to make sure that we have not "cooked the books" in reaching almost maximum points.

Although I and my partners voted against the new contract, I have to admit that I think it clearly has improved the management of chronic diseases, especially diabetes, heart disease, stroke and hypertension in primary care. However, it has done very little to recognise or support what I see as the most important role of a GP IE to diagnose and manage the myriad of problems (by no means all strictly medical) that patients present to their family doctors. The difficulty for the bean counters with this is that it is not easily quantifiable, but for most GPs it is the reason they entered the profession, and hopefully what sustains them when the "Thought Police" (as Orwell would say) come to call.