To read the newspapers in recent months you could be forgiven for forgetting that there are any managers in the NHS at all - or nurses, therapists, porters or medical secretaries, come to that. What we are asked to believe is that the pressures of the health service, the vast volumes of paperwork, the structural upheaval and the endless patient demands are felt only by those frontline heroes, the GPs.
Not for the first time they are complaining about their contract (among other things) and not for the first time they are making threats about abandoning their posts when an election is imminent. Once more, the British Medical Association's GPs' committee has resorted to that tired old threat, the post-dated resignation letter, while the GP press is running campaigns to support its readers, accompanied by the occasional story about a GP threatening to resign over their workload and the demands of those ungrateful patients. One campaign is entitled 'Respect'. It would be nice to think it was meant in a youthful, ironic sort of way, but actually GPs really are upset that people are not bowing to the almighty power of the medical profession in quite the same way any more. From another GP newspaper we have the prospect of next week's day of action - presumably we can look forward to the sight of GPs abandoning their complaining patients to lob their Red Books alongside the anti-capitalists in Trafalgar Square.
Of course they do have some support - they have a champion in shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox, who has taken the trouble to write to each of them individually, pointing out just how much better things would be if he were minister. But it will not be surprising if they find little support from the general public. For most people know a nurse, a physio, a porter - perhaps even a manager - who is putting at least as much effort into the NHS, quite possibly with a great deal less pay and flexibility. And certainly with a lot less belly-aching.