This week the British Medical Association starts its campaign against the government's polyclinic proposals. There will be posters and leaflets in every GP surgery. I've already had a preview of what this entails when I visited my local medical centre the other day.
Before I had even checked in, I was urged to sign that BMA infamous petition. Being a bolshie sort of person I declined, pointing out that I was not in the habit of signing petitions until I had acquainted myself with both sides of the argument.This remark produced a disdainful shrug from the lady behind the counter and when I added that I thought that this was multi-GP centre anyway, she retorted rather sharply "Oh no, the new clinics will have dozens of doctors and you'll be lucky to see the same one twice".
The petition form was almost full and I felt my anger rising as I realised that this BMA propaganda exercise was being repeated in surgeries across the nation (which was particularly unfortunate as I was about to have my blood-pressure checked). Quite apart from the ethics of foisting this kind of one-sided material on vulnerable patients visiting a surgery, not properly answered it could only provide another reason for not voting Labour at the next election.
Which brings me to how the government are responding to this insidious campaign. So far I have only seen Alan Johnson's excellent article in the current issue of the Observer. Presumably more will be said by Ministers in the coming days and weeks. But given the emotional pull of the BMA propaganda in the "Trust me I'm a doctor" atmosphere of the surgery this is not enough. The government (or the Party) should be insisting on the surgeries displaying the case for polyclinics alongside the BMA material, to at least give patients the opportunity of considering the pros and cons of this vital issue before making up their minds. Alan Johnson's piece would be a start but even better would be Polly Toynbee's hard-hitting polemic in last Friday's Guardian
If Whitehall and Victoria Street are reluctant to take this on, how about you dear reader? I have already sent copies of these two articles to my local practice and I would urge you to do the same. The surgeries' response will make a good story about polyclinics for the local newspaper. If you are concerned about how such action will affect your treatment in the surgery, surely the prospect of having the needle plunged in a little more vigorously than usual is a small price to pay for doing your bit for the party.