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Mr Hunt, please recognise GPs as specialists

Dr Katie Coleman's open letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to amend the Medical Act so GPs are recognised as specialist physicians

Dear Mr Jeremy Hunt,

As you will be aware, modern medicine and changes in lifestyle have resulted in people living longer but in poor health. In addition, we are seeing greater complexity across the whole human lifespan.

In order to ensure individuals are kept well for longer, GPs and their teams work hard everyday of the year, but apart from GPs no other specialism has the breadth of knowledge to ensure a holistic approach to care.

GPs are trained to step back and take a helicopter view of the whole person; assimilate the physical, emotional and social components of the individual; and generate a list of differential diagnosis, often in the space of ten minutes.

They work systematically, without direct access to specialist investigations, until they come to a diagnosis for which they initiate evidence-based interventions or refer to a single-organ specialist. As you can see, GPs are Generalist Specialist.

Yet GPs are not recognised as specialists.

At a time when we need to shift more activity away from expensive hospitals and into the community, to be cared for by GPs and their teams, we need to do everything in our power to address the recruitment crisis of general practice. Boosting the morale of GPs should, now more than ever, be seen as a priority.

Recognising GPs as specialists will not only boost morale, but will put general practice on equal footing with all other specialisms. Medical students when making a choice about their future career will no longer be asked what specialism will you choose or are you going to be 'just' a GP.

The training in general practice is rigorous. GPs must gain their certificate of completion of training and then pass the membership exam of the RCGP, which consists of a written, oral and clinical assessment. Only then are they able to practice as a GP.

As you will know, in August 2016 the RCGP and the BMA released a joint statement calling for GPs to be recognised as specialists in their own right and to bring the UK into line with other nations across the globe.[1] In January 2017 the GMC agreed that it would actively add GPs to the specialist register, if the Medical Act was changed by parliament.[2]

Mr Hunt, I feel passionate about my profession and I have so much respect for my GP colleagues, that I decided I could no longer sit back and do nothing. So I decided to set up a petition that had the potential to trigger a debate on the issue.

So I would ask you to sign the petition and help me to get parliament to make the changes to the Medical Act required to make general practitioners specialists.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Katie Coleman FRCGP




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Readers' comments (10)

  • Unless the format of the MRCGP exam has changed, is it not the case that the clinical assessment component of the exam utilises actors and at no point is the ability to elicit clinical signs tested? To my mind, this is at variance with the Membership exams of the other colleges the acquisition of which is the entry-point for specialist training.It also results in much missed pathology in my experience.

    I also question the muddled notion of the "Single-Organ Specialist"; endocrinology is a glaring example which does not fit this definition.

    Lastly, I doubt very much that the vacuous bestowal of a new title will boost GP morale in any sustained fashion, and it should not be forgotten that such a title will alter patients expectations which are not likely to be met in a lot of cases.

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  • Personally I have no interest in being called a specialist.

    As I've said before on these pages: If all the specialists resigned en masse, it would be inconvenient, but the NHS would still provide health care. If all the generalists resigned, there would be no functioning NHS.

    Specialists are optional. Generalists are essential.

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  • Is this really needed? Or will it serve as a distraction?

    Will being called a specialist improve my life or practice or improve the care of patient? Probably not.

    We need to press Mr Hunt to sort out indemnity and workload rather than just changing my job title which was not serve any purpose

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  • New title?

    You can polish a turd but it's still.....

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  • 'community house officer' after all the secondary care contract breaking GP to do . gp to follow etc etc etc.letters

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  • Tom Caldwell

    Seems like a re-branding without any particular purpose.

    I'll take adequate funding over la de dah name changes. And I do not believe a name change will bring that funding.

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  • The wee lass in Boots selling cosmetics is a consultant ffs, makes sod all difference, job is utter shite and a rebrand aint gonna fix it

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  • I wholeheartedly agree , GP's should be consultants in primary care or primary care specialists. I have retired From General practice in the last 3 yrs but I have always advocated this title change for allthe reasons given . As a GP trainer I would explain to hospital doctors the unique skills required in General practice ,managing risk, formulating action plans, dealing with uncertainty, communication skills, and solid clinical knowledge across a vast array of medical issues. All this within the 10-15 min consultation! Surely this requires a Specialist. My heart used to sink hearing my colleagues say " I am just a GP" I've never understood colleagues objecting so strongly to the title change maybe therein lies part of the problem .

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  • The real benefit is that is increases the number of countries you can flee too, particularly in Europe (at this time).

    Which is probably why it won't happen.

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