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The crass populism of 'rating' GPs online

The Jobbing Doctor is prepared to stand or fall by the quality of the medicine he practices.

The Jobbing Doctor is prepared to stand or fall by the quality of the medicine he practices.

Every day I see around 40 patients in my surgery, and they will form a view of what I am like, what I achieve for them in each consultation, and whether I make good decisions.

It is actually quite a responsibility. I first realised what I had got myself into when I started shopping at the local supermarket, and heard in the next aisle to me an animated discussion about a colleague, with comments about how he dealt with people, what his consulting style was like. Then I heard age-old stories about how he had 'saved Mrs Brown's life' or 'hadn't send Jack Smith into hospital'. I was transfixed, fascinated.

If patients don't like me, then they will go and see one of my colleagues. If they don't like the practice, they can sign on with another doctor. It is relatively straightforward. This is a form of market economics.

I suppose we should have expected, in the current climate, for the Government to try and concoct some way of trying to make league tables out of this. And lo, it came to pass!

I suppose my deep cynicism comes from being married to a schoolteacher. The schools have been subject to league tables for her entire professional career. Every year we go through the anxieties of how the school has done with the latest measures. The potential for gaming means that many schools are able to manipulate their results to put them in a better light. GCSEs in modern subjects are regarded by many teachers as ‘Mickey Mouse' qualifications.

News reaches the Jobbing Doctor that it is happening to doctors. There is a site where people can, anonymously, write about you at length, and (apart from some form of moderation by a faceless webmaster who knows neither of you), your patient is pretty free to write what on earth they want.

You won't give the local drug addict extra methadone or benzodiazepines because they are not indicated? Then you are a bad doctor, and they can go away and write what they like about you.

Patients want to see you at 8pm on an evening when you are teaching at the university, so you are not there? Put up a comment about how Jobbing Doctor is never at the surgery and you can never get an appointment.

Tell off a diabetic for endangering their health by eating sugary foods? You are rude.

You are doing the best for your patients, but can be absolutely hammered in a website where you have no way to defend yourself.

I would imagine that most colleagues would be pretty angry about the faceless civil servant who thought up this really bad idea, and say that he or she had no concept of how difficult it is being a doctor in the 21st century.

So imagine my disappointment when I discovered this whole process has been developed and tested by a group of doctors! Granted it is a bunch of people who have no clue about general practice, being either hospital doctors or in public health, but even so I would have expected such people to have insight into the potential damage that this kind of thing could do.

I have seen the mental damage caused by an unfounded complaint made against a doctor. I know what it is like to have to defend myself against a complaint.

This kind of crass populism helps nobody at all.

Jobbing Doctor Jobbing Doctor

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