There is one story dominating healthcare headlines right now - the government's pledge to deliver "a truly seven-day NHS". It's a commitment we all welcome in principle, but with dwindling GP numbers, tight budgets and concerns over existing primary and secondary care workloads, it has prompted a collective eyebrow raise and the question, 'how'?
Being a GP isn't about glamour. It's not about high tech equipment. It's not about cutting edge research, or shouting "Get me some paracetamol, stat!". There is very little drama. It's about the challenge of dealing with everything in a tiny amount of time. Of having the skills to develop an instant rapport with a patient you may have never met before...
When a photograph of an emergency room doctor grieving for a 19-year-old patient was posted online recently, it went viral with thousands of shares, likes and comments. Most of this stemmed from the fact that doctors are not known for showing personal emotions. Like all healthcare staff we deal with difficult, sometimes hugely distressing scenarios every day. We have all had moments like that doctor. Where a patient has affected us so profoundly, we cannot hold it together and need some space. This is a tribute to just five of the patients that have taught me to be a better doctor. Identifying details have been changed to preserve patient anonymity.
I believe wholeheartedly in consultation, engagement, empowerment, and ownership. But not as just buzz words to drop into meetings. Rather, I believe in what these words stand for at their best: genuine conversations between practitioners, partners, patients, policy makers and even politicians; shared insights into what works and what needs work; and a commitment to agreeing and delivering change, and all that that entails.
I look forward to a time where examples such as this are the norm, rather than best-practice case studies. I firmly believe that day will come, and when it does I have no doubt that we will not only have witnessed significant improvements in patient safety but also significant cost reductions for the NHS.
Developments in telemedicine are benefitting patients with a broad range of needs as well as improving hospital services and improving resource allocation across the NHS. Significant progress has been made towards three million people being able to benefit from telehealth by 2017 in the UK, so these programmes could be coming to hospital near you soon.
Another significant barrier to being more inclusive comes from the lack of capacity in the system, with NICE Deputy Chief Executive and Health and Social Care Director, Professor Gillian Leng admitting at the recent Westminster Social Policy Forum that they are hugely over-subscribed with would-be 'Experts by Experience' who are interested in working with them.