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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Required: Volunteer triager for GP surgery - only grandparents may apply

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‘My little boy fell over. I washed his knee and put a plaster on it but his nursery told me that I needed to get a doctor to look at it.’

I peel back a well-applied 3cm plaster (credit where credit’s due) to reveal a trivial graze to a left knee.

I praise Jonny’s mother for her swift home management, try but fail to gain understanding regarding the nursery’s concerns, and re-apply the plaster. My medical training and experience having been put to cost-effective use: a relieved mother ushers out her son, plaster now dangling precariously from his knee.

As I return to the growing list of ‘urgent extras’, I devise a plan to help GPs withstand the tsunami of patient demand: 

‘Required: Volunteer triager for GP surgery. No formal medical training required. Only very experienced (great) grandparents need apply. Willingness to working from home desirable.’

But there’s a flaw. I fear the required grandparent cohort is endangered, maybe even extinct. They used to be commonly seen talking over garden fences, waving at bus stops, walking our streets carrying shopping bags. They occupied a position of respect and authority.

Do you remember them? They were the first port of call to the worried and less experienced, always welcoming with a listening ear and a therapeutic cup of tea. They knew how to manage minor self-limiting illness and minor injury; they advised and educated their fledglings. They could be heard saying, ‘You mustn’t trouble the doctor unless there’s something wrong with you. You’ll be fine; you’re just feeling a little queer’. Yep, times have clearly moved on. I need a plan B. 

‘Nurse practitioners’, I hear you cry. ‘They’re great at standing in front of GPs and protecting them from the ever increasing patient demand tsunami.’

Of course, how silly of me! Let’s take highly-skilled and experienced practice nurses and put them through intensive additional training to become formally qualified to manage minor illness and injury.

They can offer a listening ear, give advice and educate. We will use the term ‘nurse practitioners’ to demonstrate their position of authority and to command respect.  And when they too are no longer able to cope with this tsunami of growing magnitude, we can shunt patients to our pharmacist colleagues. Sorted.

OK, so it doesn’t address the issues of increasing over-dependency on the NHS, nor actually manage the unsustainable demand on the NHS, but it does put a sticking plaster on the problem - although not very firmly. 

Dr Lisa Harrod-Rothwell is a GP in Essex and former chair of a local CCG.

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Readers' comments (7)

  • next you'll be saying families are a good basis for a stable society ...you old traditionalist!

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  • maybe a bit of old fashioned stoicism is what is required. But a lot of the 'emergencies' we see are being created from a general sense of anxiety

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  • For as long as you offer something for "free" you will always have a massive queue of "Freeloaders!!"

    Human nature at it's worst!!

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  • Part of the problems is that patients have no idea of the cost of a GP consultation - neither do we which is the other part of the problem! We don't value are time either.

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  • I remember as a 5 or 6 year old in the late 40's, stubbing my big toe in the school playground and going to the teacher with a great flap of skin hanging off the end of the toe. She simply applied some sticking plaster and kicked me back outside. The next year, another teacher had to tell my mother that he had accidentally knocked out one of my teeth with a rounder bat because I stood too close. In neither case was a doctor involved. Times have changed!

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  • I was talking to an 85 year old man who still runs his own business who said his headteacher had the motto 'safety last'!
    Born in 1942 meant a visit to the GP was the last resort.

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  • Lisa.it wasn't the mother who was anxious it was the nursery having to mind their backs....same as health workers these days

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