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I propose a new member of the team - the 'community grandparent'

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Reflection is good for the soul according to the GMC. Well, I reflected on the list of patients I saw this morning as duty doctor and concluded less than half the children I’d seen actually needed to see a GP.

Coughs, colds, runny noses, tummy upsets in otherwise healthy children - parents should be able to manage these problems.  

In my entire childhood I visited the GP less than a dozen times. When I talk to friends my own age they give a similar story; childhood illness was dealt with at home. Lucozade, paracetamol and a day on the sofa watching cartoons was the standard treatment for most childhood illnesses.

Can anyone tell me why this would not be a good idea? 

What changed? How did we get to this situation where so many parents seem incapable of managing even the mildest of symptoms in their offspring?

I think one of the problems is families are more spread out than ever before. In the past grandparents or other relatives were more often on hand to offer some common sense advice.

So I would suggest we create a new role - the community grandparent.

This person would not need to be a highly qualified nursing manager, but someone with a bit of nursing background and a lot of common sense. Someone with a few grey hairs, who can remember what the world was like when there was no Google and only three channels on TV.

This individual would ideally live in the community they work in and be on hand to take calls from worried mums about their children and if necessary visit them, a bit like a district nurse. They would be able to administer paracetamol, rub calamine on chickenpox and advise ‘no little Johnny will not die of malnutrition if he doesn’t eat for 24 hours.’

These people would not be highly-paid matrons, someone around the level of an HCA with a bit of extra paediatric training is what I have in mind. They could of course call the GP surgery and arrange appointments the same day for any children they are concerned about. We would be seeing triaged sick kids then, the ones we really need to see and have more time for them.

Yeah I know, I know, lawyers, medicolegal issues, where does the buck stop when things go wrong?

Putting all that aside though, can anyone tell me why this would not be a good idea?  

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

This is part of our ‘Great GP Debate’ season. If you would like to write a blog on how you see the future of general practice, then please email the Editor at

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It would only work if patients were not able to get an appointment to see a GP, or speak to one over the phone without going through the community grandparents.

    Unfortunately there will always be the child with a slight temperature but ends up getting meningitis and dies. The media will publish it in full.

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  • We would have to ban the phrase "you can't be too careful these days"

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