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At the heart of general practice since 1960

If GPs are so evil, how come we're so popular?

If GPs are so at fault, ponders Phil, how come the public likes us so much better than MPs?

If GPs are so at fault, ponders Phil, how come the public likes us so much better than MPs?

We are evil people, we GPs. Not only evil, but stupid, venal and incompetent.

It must be true. The evidence is overwhelming. The proof is all out there, in the media.

I wrote, in this column about a year ago, about the shameful farrago of unfounded Government-fuelled propaganda demeaning us as people and public servants.

Greedy, self-serving and arrogant seemed to be the adjectives of choice. How shocking it was that we were reluctant to open up our surgeries for all those extra hours to avoid a 15% pay cut.

In retrospect, I would be happy if it had not got any worse than that.

Now here we are in the summer of 2008 and a cursory glance at the newspapers of the previous week would seem to suggest our public image had plumbed new depths.

There seems to be no social ill we are not responsible for. We prescribe antibiotics for every viral illness going, and in our ignorance and laziness fuel the antibiotic resistance that is paralysing hospital care.

‘GPs' sexual health care is "patchy"', according to the BBC. ‘It is "essential" action is taken to increase the level and quality of provision by family doctors, a report says.'

‘Doctors miss early HIV symptoms,' reads another BBC report. ‘HIV is being spread because doctors overlook symptoms which could reveal the infection, a charity claims.'

There are 700 new cases of HIV in this country every year, the vast majority of which are found in immigrants in London, and there are 40,000 GPs nationwide.

It's overwhelmingly unlikely that I'll ever see a new case of HIV in my professional life here in Sunderland – yet apparently I'm still an arse for missing the diagnosis. Someone has got it in for us.

On 16 July, without any fanfare or fuss, the Department of Health released the results of the 2008 GP Patient Access Survey on its website.

Our Government makes a big deal of supposedly improving the quality of primary care, so it's surprising it didn't make a bigger deal of the findings, or indeed any deal at all of this remarkable public endorsement of our services.

You might not be aware of the results. I wasn't. The newspapers didn't report it, as far as I am aware. But it makes interesting reading.

Last year, GPs enjoyed a confidence rating that would make politicians wet themselves with envy. And this year, astonishingly and despite a year's worth of co-ordinated media mugging, we have done even better.

So 87% of patients were happy with telephone access to their practice (86% last year), 87% could get an appointment quickly (86% last year) and 88% could get an appointment with the GP of their choice (the same).

And 82% were happy with current opening times – a 2% fall on last year, but given the Niagara of media disinformation on the subject, something of a result.

Here in Sunderland, a supposedly underdoctored and deprived area of the country, we beat every one of those already impressively high confidence ratings easily.

We are pretty damned good, according to our patients. They appear to like what we are doing. It's all there on the DH website. And yet we are to have the privilege of three new Darzi practices, unasked for and unwanted.

As for the Labour Party, it currently has an approval rating of 22%.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland.

Phil Peverley

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