After the extensive cuts to policing budgets of the last 5 years, it would be beyond the bounds of credibility for this Tory Government to promise us Bobbies on the Beat. They have cut so deep into policing costs that even a hint in that direction would be treated with derision by many of their most supportive activists, let alone the rest of society. It is clear in any case that one of the most wasteful ways of deploying any resources is to organise them to be accessible, 24/7 in a manner that implies they are waiting for the next call or conversation, but that they are otherwise not needed apart from to reassure people who may in any case be asleep, out or watching TV. The promise of GPs 7 days a week is clearly cut from the same book of fables. The historic perspective which allowed us all to have the home number of our GP or the local Vet and expect Dr Finlay or Mr Herriot to be at our beck and call (or that of our pet animals), just as PC Dixon gave us an image for Policing. Of course there is one way of testing to see if our GPs would be required to operate 7 days a week. If we assume that most of us will look for a solution to our needs even if the usual port of call is not open, how far away is the nearest out of hours chemist? In some of our larger cities or towns there will be one or two available, although not close together. However on the outskirts of large cities they might be miles away, and smaller towns may lack them altogether. Yet if many of us where desperate for remedies on Sundays and in the evenings we would be beating a path to the door of the chemists that do exist in such a manner that our needs would stimulate a flourishing industry.
The truth is that while the Government cannot promise us Bobbies on the Beat, they do want to find a way of suggesting that we are being well looked after. Promising 7 day a week access to our GP when there is little evidence that it will benefit us is simply another form of societal placebo. What it displaces is the need for a mature debate about what services our communities really need, perhaps some reality checks around what we say we want and then a real understanding of the cost of providing such services and the amount of funding available. However that would put us perilously close to understanding how false some of our political accounting really is!