Last month I went to the Haltwhistle GP Clinic and met the staff and GPs there, spending an afternoon seeing the great work they do and the pressures they are under. It was well worth the time with Dr Mark Baker and the team; they look after the 5800 patients in their practice area which is based in Haltwhistle, but also extends from Low Row in the west to Haydon Bridge, and to Slaggyford in the south. Their surgery has recently been renovated. I sat in, and watched Mark perform a couple of minor surgery appointments in the clinic; I do not believe I have a future as a GP's assistant! Whilst there I also got my flu jab; I need the jab because I had my spleen perforated in a racing fall at Stratford nearly 10 years ago - I liked the horse so much that I tried to catch it as it fell on top of me at the second last fence at Stratford races; it hurt, and my spleen was taken out by a great surgeon called Mike Stellakis, at Warwick General Hospital. As a result I am immuno compromised.
I have taken this up with the DOH, alonmg with the point that Mark made that concerning retraining; the problem is that where a GP has not worked for two or more years, they must spend six months in compulsory retraining before they are permitted to rejoin the Performers’ List, and pass an exam costing £700 before they will be considered for retraining, and funding for posts is variable. This - according to Mark - has the effect of deterring any doctor who has worked abroad from returning, and is a large obstacle for women GPs returning from maternity leave.
Overall I was deeply impressed by the professionalism, extent of services and the quality of care in this GPs practice that was clearly very motivated by the importance to their local community of a strong Primary Care Service.
One final point: it is a scandal that some people who are entitled to a free flu jab are failing to take up the jab, which could save their life. Please make sure you ask your elderly relatives or those like me who are in an at risk group to get the jab. Some people will die or get very sick this winter because of the lack of this and it is totally wrong, and totally avoidable. The jab is free and available at all GPs. Not only is this a potential tragedy, but if people get sick through failing to have the flu jab they can occupy much needed hospital beds with everything that this entails for both the hospital and the wider community.
I had my jab done in less than 3 minutes by Sarah. It does not hurt [much!] and will save your life!! Please make sure you check your parents, relatives and neighbours have done the same thing.