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September 19, 2016

Private Eye Medicine Balls 1425
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 1:26 pm

Hunt’s Human Shield

Why are junior doctors so suspicious about the appointment of ‘Charlie’ Massey as chief executive of the General Medical Council? Massey is currently Director General of Acute Care and Workforce at the Department of Health, working closely with health secretary Jeremy Hunt on the workforce implications of the junior doctors’ contract and Hunt’s vision of ‘a truly 7 day NHS’, in the absence of  any extra staffing and funding, or indeed a clear definition, plan and evidence base.

Massey came a cropper when he appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in February to reveal the Government had very limited data and no dedicated funding for its 7 day plans.  Massey had no idea what the manpower implications were for the policy, nor indeed what the current staffing situation was in the NHS. Massey and the DH were described by the PAC as ‘flying blind’, powered only by the wind of the government’s vacuous election pledges. The DH had no readily accessible data on staff vacancy rates, limited data on course completion rates, limited data on leaver rates and no data on temporary staffing. There was no evidence that the proposed contract changes could be safely staffed. As Massey admitted ‘there are some data gaps in our workforce planning’.

Massey will not however be filling these gaps, having landed the prestigious job of chief executive and registrar of the GMC, which Niall Dickson has occupied for nearly 7 years at just £235,000 a year. The GMC is supposed to be an independent medical regulator, so the appointment of one of Hunt’s stooges who is overseeing contract imposition to the most senior GMC role gives doctors grave cause for concern. The GMC has the power to strike off striking doctors and to remove trainees from trusts if they are felt not to meet training standards, which are themselves decided by the GMC. The GMC could in theory influence contract imposition and hospital closures, which is why its independence from government, and appearance of independence, is vital. So why appoint Massey?

On July 17, 2016, Dr Edward Thomas did an FOI request about Massey’s appointment via the WhatDoTheyKnow website. ‘Please state how Mr Massey was recruited. Was the post open to external competitive recruitment? If so how was the job advertised, and how many people applied? Was any external recruitment agency used? If so how much were they paid? Did Mr Massey go through any competitive recruitment selection, for example interview? If so please provide copies of the assessors’ notes/score sheets from the interview (or provide the assessor notes from the alternative assessment he went through if it wasn’t an interview).’ The GMC promised to respond within 20 working days. 40 working days later, and it hasn’t.

This is no surprise to anyone who’s tried using the GMC, a tortuous machine that transfers money from doctors to lawyers under the flimsy guise of ‘protecting patients.’ Its one-sided warnings to junior doctors for considering striking without highlighting the longer term harm to patients of a government driving through unplanned, uncosted, unevidence based reform is very unbalanced. Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England and many of the Royal Colleges have made the same error, hanging the junior doctors out to dry. As one told MD; ‘The BMA is as incompetent as Hunt, and I don’t agree with striking. I’d far rather go on hunger strike and harm myself for such an important cause, rather than harm patients. But if I go on hunger strike it’ll not just be about contract imposition but the underfunded, understaffed NHS that is being quietly outsourced to the private sector. And I’d expect Royal College and GMC leaders to support me, not blame me.’

At least Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers – which speaks for hospital trust chairs and chief executives – has now publicly agreed with the ‘dangerous radical’ junior doctors that the NHS is in financial crisis, can’t provide the current service safely and certainly can’t extend more services over 7 days without more staff. MP Norman Lamb agrees: ‘It’s really horrendous that, despite our relative wealth, we have a health and social care system that is on its knees.’ Maybe Charlie Massey will also publicly support junior doctors in the name of patient safety. Or maybe he will be sent into bat against them as Hunt’s human shield at the Justice for Health High Court Hearing on September 19 and 20 (see Eyes passim).