This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP assistants may be the last generalists

There is not a problem with getting help from GP assistants for GPs, especially with some of the paperwork and management problems or well-defined management algorithms, but isn't the emphasis upside down?

Why stop them prescribing, which can mostly be done well with a book in one hand and a taught emphasis on a healthy reluctance to interfere unecessarily to back that up.

I thought the three most important (and difficult) things in medicine were first to make a diagnosis, second to make a diagnosis and third to make a diagnosis. By comparison, treatment is relatively much the easier task with the aid of a book, software, or getting joined-up management going with other professionals such as specialists, pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and so on.

One good thing resulting from the use of GP assistants will be the realisation from our masters that tasks we are currently expected to do well in five minutes will be done in 30 by those assistants who will hopefully demand a reasonable timescale to do their work.

There is already a momentum towards GPs becoming ersatz 'specialists' rather than take the harder option of aiming at being capable of initiating the diagnostic and management pathways of everything in medicine and related disciplines. Perhaps the last generalists will be the GP assistants.

I am too ancient to change the world but at least I can say I have told you what the future will look like – very bleak – for those who aspire to be good, all-round GPs, which is the hardest road of all to travel in medicine.

Dr John Mclean

Waterbeach, Cambridge 

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say