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ss triple helix - Easter 2008,  Open all hours? - The BMA clash with the government over plans for extended open hours

Open all hours? - The BMA clash with the government over plans for extended open hours

The New Year kicked off with an announcement of yet another NHS shake-up. In a speech pegged around the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the NHS, Gordon Brown revealed that the nation's rarely-seen-in-the-NHS, healthy citizens are to be encouraged to see the doctor anyway, in order to prevent them turning into sick, expensive patients. [1] The Prime Minister committed the NHS to a screening programme to rival the private sector: 'the health service has really got to change...from being the curative service... to being also a preventative service'. And it's going to be less and more : 'So you get to see the doctor you want at the time you want and the hospital you want'. [2]

The Prime Minister also hinted that he would make getting to see the doctor a whole lot easier. And sure enough, following up on Labour's pre-election-that-never-was promise, [3] a plan to get GPs to work evenings and Saturdays for no extra pay was unveiled in early February. The BMA declared it a loselose situation for GPs – accept Plan A or have Plan B (an even worse financial deal) imposed on you – but Health Secretary Alan Johnson went over their heads and appealed direct to every GP partner in the land. [4]

How then should we assess this situation? We could look at things financially. This proposal could make a huge dent in many CMF members' wallets. Should that matter though? After all, Christians are not meant to be motivated by money. [5] On the other hand, a 'worker deserves his wages' [6] and accepting what is actually a back door pay cut will make giving cheerfully to the Lord somewhat harder! [7]

The deeper approach is to ask why the government feels the need to drive through these screening and opening hours measures. Gordon Brown's speech provides our answer: he is doing all this to 'meet the rising expectations of the British people'. Consumerism – the desire to 'have it perfect' with a perfect service and perfect health – is the driving force behind this and all other recent NHS initiatives.

What then should we do? We should pray for a lasting solution for the NHS. Pray for the healing of our nation from the sickness of consumerism. [8]

  5. Hebrews 13:5
  6. Luke 10:7
  7. 2 Corinthians 9:7
  8. 2 Chronicles 7:14
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