Dr Rant and Dr Grumble both pick up on an article in the Telegraph today quoting a GP comparing the annual cost of providing GP care and insuring a hamster (£50 vs £65).
Vets are skilled, dedicated professionals, who have been selected for university degrees from among the brightest of our school leavers and undergone rigorous and demanding training. In a free market, they deserve whatever they are paid. So would doctors in a free market. Looking at the USA, it would probably be more than they are currently paid. The truth is that having the same monopoly acting as employer, provider of facilities, regulator of trainee and job numbers and regulator of income has actually held back doctors wages. Perhaps the USA is not typical one might argue. After all UK doctors are the best paid in Europe. They may well be but there is also government interference in healthcare in Europe and perhaps a more valid comparison would be with those other bright and hardworking individuals working at the pinnacle of free markets - the City, where a fund manager with say 15-20 years experience, if he still needed to be at work, would consider a GPs or Consultants annual wage no more than lunch money.
I was made aware of how much we stood to benefit from free markets when I started contacting osteopaths about our MRI service. I really knew nothing about osteopaths until recently but the ones I have spoken to have been gracious, well mannered and personable. Then again they are all self employed and these same qualities are their stock in trade. And what a trade it seems to be. Having phoned up many dozens of practices it seems many work from about 8am until 8pm and some even do OOH home visits. They book patients back-to-back at 20 minute intervals and the going rate around here seems to be about £35. I have never managed to phone and find an osteopath free between patients. Some employ a receptionist but some just have an answering machine and a few even work out of their own homes so expenses are low. When I did call in to one practice to deliver leaflets I noticed a patient paying in cash so even paperwork is minimal.
Well, by my calculations that is around £100/hour, lets say 10 hours/day, 5days/week, for 40 weeks a year (they all seem to take a long holiday between Xmas and the skiing season). That makes £200,000 pa before expenses.
Recently I have had 6th form students, interested in a career in Medicine, spending part of the day with me at work and I have mentioned that they could be earning this sort of money after only a three year course and should reconsider their options.
My other conclusion from my observations is that patients are willing to pay hard-earned cash to someone who is nice to them and devotes 20 minutes personal attention. The same message in the magazine from the Medical Protection Society today - patients rarely sue doctors who are nice to them. Whether the treatment is correct, safe, evidence-based or effective doesn't even register on the scale. Doctors ought to remember this.