Latest NHS idea is GPs to see patients in Groups of 15

Having served on Dept.Health (DH) committees, it’s often the crazy ideas that float around upsetting NHS staff and patients that come from these. Set up by the DH in desperation, the latest to hit the fan is going to be a “10 year plan’.

We have a minister and scores of civil servants trying to run a top heavy health ‘service’, so it’s not surprising it isn’t working.  But, sometimes patients CAN turn their mad ideas on their head, and make them work.

So pick out what’s good for YOU with this latest idea – and it has possibilities.

What’s it all about?

The DH is contemplating rolling out a ’10 year plan’; one idea is it will be cheaper for GPs to see patients with chronic conditions in groups of 15  at one time.   Of course patients’ associations, survivor groups and patients protested, BUT

….  in theory  if you are a cancer suvivor,  instead of a rushed 10 minute appointment, a group of you could have an hour with a doctor, then another hour with a nurse,  What the think tank hasn’t realised is, this will give everyone a chance to lobby en masse for better care.

Group meetings could provide a platform for imrovement.  On your own, it’s difficult , but get 15 patients together, and they could form a powerful group.  No-one will be able to say “no-one else has complained”.

The Patients Association has said group consultations could be “reassuring”; people could see others who shared the same concerns and challenges caused by their condition. But their chief executive, Rachel Power, added: “Patients must be given the choice as to whether to participate, or to continue with more traditional GP services.”

Turning NHS initiatives on their head

So let’s  play the NHS at its own game.  A group could maka a powerful case for

  • Chance to trial Lymphoedema massage sleeves
  • Set up exercise classes for those with osteoporosis
  • Lobby for Mole Clinics
  • Give out official advice on what check-ups are needed, rather than leave patients to work this out
  • Make up a list of approved local massage therapists for arthritis, M.L.D, etc.

In Germany I noticed the hospital setting up for a big meeting. By law they had to run monthly sessions for  cancer survivors, offering advice and help for patients concerned  with major or minor health matters post cancer treatment.  These were well-attended.

Grasping the nettle

Group sessions could make it easy for Patients to take charge of their own care, instead of scant help received today. Patient groups could form a strong lobby for change.  Once they get together it wouldn’t take a genius to uncover the lies we are toldm such as

  • “I’ve never seen this before”
  • “This is not available on the NHS”
  • No-one else has asked for this
  • “No-one else has reported this side effect” etc
  • I don’t know where you can get this

All the guff we are fed to shut us up could be shown up for what it is – an attempt to save money by denying us treatment that is available.

Strength in numbers

A group can provide a united front. Patients working together could change the way the NHS manages to brush us off.  On my own, it took five years for my suspicions that one of my drugs had caused neuropathy, for it to be acknowledged by The Royal Marsden.  Copies of info from ASCO and other official American health websites were brushed aside, and my research discounted.  Today a friend says the hospital now has notices in Outpatients alerting patients that neuropathy exists. If a group had pointed this out – they couldn’t have  ignored them. 


However, If groups are NHS-led, it is easy to see what could go wrong.  Patient groups have said the idea is “ghastly” and fundamentally undermines the notion of doctor-patient confidentiality.  But as far as I can see, confidentiality needn’t come into the equation.  A doctor or nurse could give out information on osteoporosis, moles, lymphoedema,  etc.  We don’t have to give out private medical information, but I would welcome advice on where to find help, from a doctor, nurse of – more probably – another patient.

Groups must be patient-led, focussing on what we need, not what the NHS thinks we need.

By coming together and demanding better care in handling our multiple long-term side effects, we could ensure improvements. It needn’t cost more: the NHS has many services available, just no-one knows about them.  But a group discussion could highlight what one member has discovered  and alert everyone else.

According to the Royal College of GPs, trials in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Berkshire have shown the schemes can be effective across a range of conditions.  Their chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said there was no suggestion these would be mandatory, or for discussing embarrassing conditions, but that they were likely to be part of the upcoming NHS 10-year plan.

I asked my local surgery if they had plans to set up these groups, but received a swift NO. I can’t blame them as it has enough problems dealing with Capita (whom the NHS has appointed to handle surgery admin). and I suspect the chaos that they would make of this initiative didn’t bear thinking about.  But …. it was patient power that had chucked out this company in our local hospitals when I lived in another area!

So which GP surgery is going to be brave enough to start a genuine, patient-led cancer survivors’ group?



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