A SENIOR Stafford NHS leader has apologised for comparing GPs to cats after local doctors were left feline offended.
Dr Anne Marie Houlder said her comments that trying to get doctors to sign up to health service changes could be "like herding cats" were not intended to cause offence.
The Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group chairwoman told a Stafford Borough Council scrutiny commitee that it could be difficult to get buy-in for changes such as extended surgery opening hours because doctors "liked to do their own thing".
She said change was "not universally popular", but health services had to alter to meet changing circumstances and demand from patients.
“This is not about getting GPs to work harder - most of my colleagues are working 12 or 14 hour days and they are knackered. But we must look at how we can work differently," Dr Houlder told councillors.
She has now written to the Newsletter emphasising that the cat remark was a "light hearted comment" and did not indicate any lack of support for hard-working family doctors.
Here is the text of the letter:
"A recent Newsletter report of an Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting attended by myself, as chair of Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), may have left people with the impression I was unsupportive of the challenges faced by some of my colleagues in primary care.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and I write in the hope of setting the record straight in that regard.
During the meeting, myself and CCG Chief Officer, Andy Donald, were questioned around the possibilities of GP surgeries operating seven days a week and the issues around making that happen.
I explained at the time there were a variety of obstacles to that proposition, including the independent contractual status of GPs and the fact that much of primary care is already working at full capacity.
I made the point of raising the issue to the committee that many GPs are exhausted and overstretched already, and the current recruitment and retention crisis in primary care, a matter that has been discussed at previous CCG Governing Body meetings at length and reported in Newsletter.
During the conversation I used the phrase ‘herding cats’ as a metaphor for the independent nature of many GPs and the fact this sometimes makes them a challenging group of professionals to lead.
It’s a familiar metaphor in the NHS and has been applied to GPs by eminent commentators on the health service and journalists alike on numerous occasions.
I used it during a light-hearted moment in the proceedings and I would like to offer my sincere apologies to anyone offended by it.
I can see how the quote in isolation – as well as the joke about ‘blood on the surgery floor’ – could come off as flippant and unsupportive of the hard work and the challenges faced by GPs at the moment, a point I spent most of the meeting trying to express to the committee.
I would like to offer my profound apologies to anyone who was upset by my comments and reassure them that I am very much aware of the problems primary care faces and along with the rest of the CCG, I am committed and resolved to do everything I can to assist in alleviating some of the pressure those issues cause."
Dr Anne-Marie Houlder, Chair, Stafford and Surrounds CCG