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General practice is not a retirement home for hospital physicians

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Teetering? Literally on the edge? This might tip you over. In which case, sorry.

According to Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, it would be a really great idea for senior hospital physicians nearing retirement who can’t ‘cope any longer’ with the rigours of hospital medicine to step into general practice to help out.

To quote him, ‘In my personal opinion, that individual, if we could keep them and use them in primary care, would be an absolutely invaluable resource to a big practice. They could work on a much more structured basis, Monday to Friday, nine to five.’

Professor Cumming should be congratulated. Not for his skills in thinking outside the box, but for his ability to go from zero to outrageously insulting within the space of two sentences. That’s a masterstroke of brevity, and for those not quite clear why the average GP is now printing images of the professor to gob on, here’s a brief explanation of what he appears to be saying:

1. Hospital physicians, even knackered ones, could step into a GP practice and function without any problem - GPs aren’t very bright to begin with, so the clapped-out physicians would fit in just fine.

2. They wouldn’t need any special training because, as we all know, general practice isn’t a real specialty.

3. General practice will be quite happy to act as a quasi retirement home for clapped out physicians because, although their work isn’t important, there is a lot of it - so new personnel are always welcome, even if they drool a bit.

4. GPs clock in at nine, clock off at five and gave up weekend work long ago. That’s why they’re not as tired as proper doctors.

The only thing that stopped me literally vomiting my lunch over the Pulse website was something else the Professor said. Specifically, that the increase in the number of GP trainees applying for this year’s third GP training recruitment round might be attributable to the ‘controversial’ marketing campaign Health Education England is running. You remember, the video where we sell the profession to eager young recruits on the basis of our ability to sign a ‘Fit to skydive’ form and then forget to charge a fee.

It could be that, professor, couldn’t it? But it isn’t. I’m certain of that. What I’m less certain of is where knackered chief executives get put out to grass. Anyway, you’re welcome at my practice. Oh, actually, you’re not.

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

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Readers' comments (18)

  • Maybe he meant use them for their expertise in primary care rather than in secondary care? Maybe he did not mean to say use them as GPs. Does the government have anything to gain from a bunch of angry GPs? Yes actually, angry GPs are stupid GPs that caused the demise of the NHS.

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  • I'm fed up with dealing with general Practice - can I take up Neurosurgery for my last 3 years?
    I have 30+ years of GP experience and all the training. Where do I apply?

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  • Neurosurgery is a piece of piss compared to general practice. I've done both

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  • Knacked/incompetent/monosynaptic chief executives/politico GPs seem to end up in NHS England,The CQC or the Houses of parliament it seems.

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  • If it was good enough for Doc Martin....

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  • A consultant in Neurosurgery is likely to be lost with AHD and asthma and Hypertension etc. So they are unlikely to be available.
    A Physician could deal with a lot of Internal Medicine, but find Gynae difficult. I have been both.

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  • Any retired physician is welcomed to do OOH night shift and receive 111 hilarious calls. I am curious to see how they will cope.
    Hospital doctors and our leaders have no clue that GPs have to be walking medical encyclopaedia. We have to know everything including how long does a x-mass turkey take to cook

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  • He made a mistake.
    He should instead have said nurses / pharmacists & PAs.
    They can give out Paracetamol etc.and refer patients to proper doctors / specialists (based in hospitals) for all actual medical / surgical issues.

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  • I do think there is a place for senior experienced sensible physicians to work as community geriatricians, perhaps within a community acute nursing team or a few beds and provide timely access to a medical opinion. It has been working here in ~Sefton for some years.

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  • Of course we have knowledge skills and experience which is relevant to and may occasionally contribute to General Practice.
    I cannot believe anyone might seriously believe that we should be put out to grass as "pseudo-GP's!

    An effective inter-active forum might be achievable if General Practice were to be given a chance to stabilise, re-group and regain the prestige and morale that perhaps peaked in 1975 1990.

    This would do more to improve the safety and quality of care of patients, families and populations than the bizarre approach of the "C.Q.C" which amazed me whilst concluding 34 years as a hospital consultant.

    My post-registration VTS training and MRCGP (Hons) was a very valuable asset in returning to a hospital based career.

    I would have liked to have contribute,d via 40 years of medical practice - to VTS, - were it to have been an option.

    Commissioning appeared to be the only opportunity at the time I retired.


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From: Copperfield

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