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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Ta, but I’ll skip the cuddle

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‘I’ve waited three weeks for this appointment.’

Here we go. I drag my gaze from computer screen to patient, expecting to see the usual look of entitled fury prefixing a list of demands, all inappropriate. But no. How odd. Something’s different. And that something is that he looks sympathetic, sorry, as if he doesn’t want to give me a fat lip, but a cuddle. A bit weird, admittedly, in a beefy, tattooed, shaven-headed bloke with no discernible neck, but, hey it’s the thought and all that.

The message that general practice is on the brink of extinction is finally getting through

‘I’m not complaining,’ he explains. ‘I’ve heard how you GPs are under the cosh. It’s worth waiting to see my own doc, though. I really don’t know how you guys cope with it all.’

Wow. After about a minute, I realise I haven’t spoken, because my jaw has dropped so far that I’m aphasic. Maybe just as well, because if I had been able to talk I might have pointed out the irony of, on the one hand, his insight into GP workload and, on the other, the fact that he has come about a sore throat. But why spoil a nice moment?

He’s not the only one coming in with bouquets rather than brickbats. In recent weeks, loads of patients have swapped the usual opening gambit moan about lack of appointments, parking spaces, telephone access or antibiotics to an expression of sympathy at the GP’s plight.

So what this means is that, as far as the public is concerned, the message that general practice is on the brink of extinction is finally getting through. If only secondary care was as well informed.

Despite a large section of the much-trumpeted Forward View explaining how hos-docs would no longer be able to dump on primary care – with immediate effect – I have spent much of my time complying with or fending off (depending on my level of stroppiness) massive secondary care dumps.

Okay, yes, I’m expecting too much too soon. But do any of us really believe that the requests to chase up this MSU, treat that vaginal swab, refer for the other lung nodule, follow up these bloods, re-refer that DNA, order the other MRI scan, arrange this echocardiogram, review that patient and do the other whimsical tasks the men in white coats dream up, to just give you today’s quotient, are going to stop?

They only will when someone enlightens our secondary care colleagues that nowhere in the Forward View does it say anything about GPs being default, unpaid community housemen. The truth is, none of them have even heard of this latest NHS manifesto, let alone read it. That’s why they continue to have the Rear View, in the sense that they’re happy to continue kicking the GP’s arse to do their work for them.

So, Mr Hunt, please send every hospital doctor a glossy, remixed and very simplified version of the Forward View. Something along the lines of: ‘This is the boss speaking, now leave those poor GPs the f**k alone.’

In the meantime, I’ll console myself with the sympathies of an increasingly enlightened public. Though I’ll skip the cuddle, thanks.  

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

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Readers' comments (8)

  • It would be nice if they might document their sympathy - perhaps by ticking the right box at the general election. And not attend to tell us!

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  • "Tick the right box"?Are you seriously suggesting that a Miliband-Sturgeon coalition would have done better? Suggest you review the history of the last Labour government (which probably was the LAST Labour government) from the Jurassic socialist Dobson, whose solution was to turn the clock back to 1948 to the hapless Hewett via, bizarrely, John Reid.The only decent Minster they had was Milburn, who resigned in despair.

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  • Milburn! Seriously?

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  • Free market Milburn!!!!!

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  • Brilliant blog. The secretaries do all the bouncing back for me but it still takes up practice time.

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  • These requests are dealt with as quickly as possible by me, by writing NO, YOU DO IT, signed with my name clearly stamped below, on the offending letter, and our Sec' faxes it back.
    I'm up for a fight with these secondary care jerks, trying to dump their work on me.
    Any offending Consultant will no longer get private referrals from me nor my colleagues if I can help it.

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  • These are written by FY1 who actually have no knowledge of how primary care works.
    I would not expect a consultant to do this. Consultants know the work load in primary care.

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  • I remember doing this as a houseman ..
    Dear GP could you arrange an excercize Ecg.
    The GP replied .. Why don't you do it
    My fellow pre op staff thought it was hilarious
    But fair enough we requested it ....
    Now I am a GP ... I can see the other side .. Lol

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From: Copperfield

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