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A faulty production line

General practice is a joke that just isn’t funny anymore

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There was a time was when these blogs would relate hilarious (well, I thought so) episodes from the wacky world of general practice. But, while there’s still the occasional smirk-worthy moment (e.g. the fact that, in the last three months, we’ve had a grand total of one Friends and Family Test questionnaire returned, and that was blank), it’s getting increasingly difficult to introduce any levity on account of GP land being so frankly crap. As a result, our cerebral LOL centres have atrophied, and it’s no longer possible to shrug off the grind of general practice with a wry smile.

We’ve gone beyond being buoyed by stunt politics and instead want real solutions

Which probably explains my reaction to the proposal that all GPs should immediately be signed off work with stress. This is a motion apparently proposed by Shropshire LMC, which could be debated at the LMCs conference this month.

Once, I’d have found this hilarious – not least because, as one reader has commented, who will sign GPs off with stress if all GPs are signed off with stress? But I don’t find it hilarious now, though. Yes, it’s clever, quirky and eye-catching. But the parlous state of general practice means we’ve gone beyond being buoyed by stunt politics and instead want real solutions. We thought the much trumpeted Forward View might offer some: a grand gesture or two, perhaps, which would have been instantly transformative. Instead, we received small pots of jam tomorrow, half promises with strings attached, which just add to the frustration rather than alleviate it.

And so, in the absence of those grand gestures, the LMCs are resorting to empty ones in an attempt to raise a smile or some publicity. I doubt it’ll do either. General practice is a joke that just isn’t funny anymore.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield

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Readers' comments (20)

  • Bit worried re the burnout rate for purse columnists. Could it be that eyes closed and fingers in ears is a better strategy than the conscious reflection needed to write a column?
    Scary times.

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  • You are not the only one

  • Pev and Copperfield. Nabi.
    They are all wrong. Only Maureen is right.
    A funding decrease from 11.3% to 7.2% in 10 years.
    Still, no worries, no better time to be a GP.

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  • Very scary times, sadly I think we all feel the same. I used to enjoy my job, and it wasn't that long ago I looked forward to coming into work. Now I can't wait to retire and fantsize about an alternative career. Sad.

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  • medicine tastes awful

    Yes General Practice is a Joke - because our SOS for health is a joke.

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  • Why doesn't anyone ever try to improve quality by making the job EASIER and more enjoyable? Why does it always involve extra processes and regulation, which detract and deflate? Probably because adding processes adds jobs - not for us but for the ones who either have escaped or see an escape route.
    I invite you to look at Yves Morieux on And you might consider the relevance of his comments to us.

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  • You're right Tone. Even a year ago, our monthly CCG teaching session used to be a good chance to catch up with neighbours and colleagues and exchange a smile over a Glaxo baguette and a free pen or two. Now they have a grave atmosphere, where the few colleagues who bother to turn up trudge in and trade grimaces while they mull the pickled onions and curled up sandwiches. The pens have long gone, the speakers have nothing new to tell us and if you squint hard you'd swear there were vultures circling the building. We are dying. And when confronted with a dying patient, we should play to our strengths. Plan for the inevitable. General Practice needs a DS1500 and a DNACPR form. Death is coming. We should stop fighting.

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  • Hi 1101

    And I bet you're only 30 years old

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  • The only survival tactic left is to treat the box ticking crap heaped on us with the contempt and indifference it deserves.
    I've resorted to ticking whatever boxes need to be ticked and exaggerating symptoms just to get patients seen.
    It's just a game and the rule book was thrown away a long time ago.

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  • I have reduced to half time and I enjoy the job again. I don't believe it is possible to do f/t gp any more without getting burn out. I 'm still busy and employed the rest of the week with a diversified career. I strongly encourage other f/t fed up gps to follow this path.

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  • Russell Thorpe

    I enjoy my job, I work hard to keep on top of the wave of morbidity and there is a great atmosphere in the practice. I have a afternoon siesta so there is no time pressure and I always get a lunch break. I run a list of 2000 pts and put lifestyle and patient experience above remuneration. Sadly I'm not part of the "vision" for primary care.

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From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder