As I sat in my place listening to Gordon Brown’s Pre-Budget Statement last week, I was reminded of the undergraduate’s essay which began “When the artist woke up in the morning, the sunshine streamed in through the window. He felt rosy all over.” His English Tutor had relieved the tedium of marking essays by scribbling in the margin “Lucky Rosy.”
And so it was with the Chancellor. Prudence had left, and Rosy had arrived.
All the other economic commentators were out of step; the prospects for the economy were set fair, and all who disagreed would be proved wrong, as Gordon asserted they had been for the past eight years.
Then he said something that I thought I must have misheard. So I waited until Hansard came out the next day and read the official record. And there it was.
“We will build on successful experience by also locating employment advisers in GP’s surgeries.”
Hang on a minute, the sketch-writers are going to have fun with that one, I said. Put yourself in the shoes of a punter who wakes up feeling at death’s door, and resolves to go to the Medical Centre to see his friendly GP to get relief. He arrives, feeling fragile and looking forward to an audience with a sympathetic health professional who will prescribe some appropriate purgative. He will take the note to the apothecary for dispensation. The apothecary will look at the customer over his horn-rimmed spectacles, purse his lips in disapproval of the lifestyle that had generated the complaint, and retreat into the bowels of the pharmacy to get the pills. And the next day, all is well.
But that is not what is apparently going to happen. On arrival at the Medical Centre, the patient does not find a benign member of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Instead, at the behest of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the check-in desk is a representative from the Job Centre, eager to find shelf-stackers for the local supermarket; or possibly to discourage the issuance of any sick-note that will aggravate the Chancellor’s Budget deficit.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for joined-up Government; for helping back into work vulnerable folk who have been marginalised and who need advice and encouragement. And no-one is in favour of scroungers.
But the Medical Centres in Hampshire are, for the most part, bursting at the seams with patients and health professionals, focussing on medical imperatives. If I want a job, I will go to the Job Centre. If I want a jab, I will go to the Jab Centre. I remain to be convinced of the benefits of integrating these two disciplines.