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Four GPs take to the streets to consult with patients for new BBC1 reality show Street Doctor

Primetime TV boost for GPs' image

Four GPs who took to the streets to consult with patients for a new BBC reality TV series believe it will help improve the image of general practice with the public.

Street Doctor starts today (11 January) at 7pm on BBC1 and runs for eight weeks.

It features Dr George Rae, chair of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, Dr Jonty Heaversedge and Dr Ayan Panja from London, and Dr Barbara Murray from Stockport.

The four GPs travelled the UK, providing consultations in settings ranging from shopping centres and markets to farms and local choirs.

Despite the obvious lack of confidentiality involved in having a consultation in public to be broadcast on primetime TV, Dr Murray said they often had long queues of people waiting to see them.

'Once people realised we weren't there to exploit them they were really into it,' she said.

'In Glasgow they lined up to see us. It was like bringing the surgery to the people.

'One homeless man ran down the street after me – he had a leg ulcer, but had avoided going to the hospital because he felt he was judged there.'

Dr Heaversedge said he hoped the show would counter often negative portrayals of GPs in the media.

'We were trying to engage with people in a way that wouldn't be patronising or preachy.

'It might hopefully let people see what we're like. We're pretty approachable and I hope it will show us as people who care about their patients.'

Both GPs said the programme went to great lengths to reassure patients over the issue of confidentiality. Each patient was informed about what was involved before going ahead with the consultation.

Once over, if they were happy, they signed a consent form, but were still given a number to call in case they wanted to opt out.

Two independent doctors also looked at the film to make sure no patient rights were breached.

'We virtually crossed every 't' we could,' Dr Murray said.

Dr Heaversedge added: 'The BBC was really behind the idea of not embarrassing the patients. It's not supposed to be about going into patients' backgrounds. It's supposed to be touching on issues that are worrying them that they want to talk about.'

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