Whatever happened to Lord Darzi?
That was one of the questions on the lips of the 800 delegates at the RCGP annual conference in Bournemouth yesterday.
The health minister and surgeon, whose name has come to represent almost everything that so many GPs loathe about Labour’s health policies, pulled the plug on his keynote speech hours before he was due to take to the stage.
Darzi’s taped replacement two-minute video address was perhaps notable only for the health minister’s erroneous referral to the RCGP’s chairman Professor Steve Field as its president.
‘At least it was a slip of the tongue, rather than the scalpel,’ quipped host and BBC TV medical correspondent Fergus Walsh.
Most memorable anecdote was probably Walsh’s. He said former colleague turned unlikely Strictly Come Dancing hero John Sargeant had, apparently, told him that there were only three questions journalists ever needed to ask: ‘How bad is it? How bad can it get? And what can be done about it?’
‘John said he once made it through a whole Today programme just asking those three questions.’
Mr Walsh added that when he recently interviewed Darzi, he was given only two minutes and told Darzi’s press advisor: ‘Don’t worry I’ve only got three questions.’
But where was the Lord?
The DoH insisted it was ‘ministerial commitments’ rather than the expected governmental reshuffle preoccupying him, without actually specifying what they were. Delegates were unimpressed. Professor Field called it a ‘missed opportunity’, adding: ‘I’d like one day to get a minister here, although they might be Conservative.’
National primary care director Dr David Colin-Thomé had postponed a family holiday to fill Lord Darzi’s shoes and frankly it looked like he’d been given short notice when he stumbled into the conference centre unshaven and scruffy at 8.30 yesterday morning.
He was in complete contrast to actual RCGP president Professor David Haslam, who was spotted limbering up for an early morning jog along the seafront in the conference hotel car park some 90 minutes earlier.
The surprise for me about day one of the conference was how unhappy young GPs are about the lack of partnerships. It’s something that GP and Healthcare Republic has reported extensively on recently but it’s another thing to hear it from the mouths of quite so many unhappy youngsters at the start of their careers.
Hit of the first day was probably Donald Berwick’s (president and chief executive officer of the US-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement) who earned a standing ovation and touched many a chord with his speech about the values of the NHS.
Some GPs unwound last night at a GP Jammin Session during which they took to the Bournemouth International Centre stage to play instruments and sing. Day two of the conference programme is about to begin as I write.
But whatever happened to Lord Darzi? Do let us know if you know what detained him yesterday.