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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Bean-counting isn't what I signed up for

The bean-counters love black and white, on and off. Things that are easy to quantify and measure.

This 'life is just one thing or its opposite' belief is why I feel alienated by the new computer-based general practice, which the hateful contract has reinforced around us.

Like everyone who voted for the GP contract, it was for one reason - so that after 25 years proI could get out of dealing with sore throats, dental complaints and requests for vasectomy on a Saturday morning or seeing the precious darling who cried for five minutes at 3am. In return, we accepted the intrusion of IT into our lives. Not because we thought it was good for the patient but because it seemed a small price to pay.

But now we are becoming data input clerks instead of decision-makers. Neither patients nor doctors will benefit from that.

What people want when they go to the doctor is your full attention, access to your experience, respect, a degree of friendliness, a decent assessment and a clear conclusion. They probably want someone they know.

They don't want to see a different doctor every time or to wait hours in the waiting room. Neither do they want unprompted screening, a distracted doctor asking endless irrelevant questions or a conversation with the side of their doctor's head.

These days I sit in bored servitude to a screen on my desk as I handle path results, letters, emails, out-of-hours information and all the other digital fog that surrounds me. This is not what I signed up for.

It would be different if patients were tick boxes or a combination of 0s or 1s. Then the invasion of computing techniques to record, assess, document and control might improve the nation's health.

But people aren't like this. You won't paint a Turner by numbers. Counting the number of leaves on a tree doesn't tell you what it looks like. And so it is with patients. They have infinite variables in all areas - gradations on an analogue scale.

From Dr Chris Heath, Horsham, Sussex

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