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At the heart of general practice since 1960

A lack of perspective

Dr David Turner writes

Having every variety of human life walk through our doors daily gives us a unique perspective on society. We get to know people and more importantly we have a pretty good idea of what patients are likely to engage with. A perspective that the individuals who endlessly dream up more crap for us to do sadly lack.

Take a recent example: we are being ‘encouraged’ to sign up more of our COPD patients for pulmonary rehabilitation. Now I’m sure whoever thought up this initiative did it with the best intentions. They probably felt invigorated after a morning session at the gym and thought ‘well, if I feel good after exercise, so will all those COPD patients’.

The weakness in their plan is the small matter of them never having met a COPD patient.

Where I work the average chronic bronchitic shuffles about in clothes that last saw the inside of a washing machine when John Major was still in number 10.

The only time they are likely to take active steps towards improving their lung function is when they are too breathless to smoke, so the idea that they are going to be motivated enough to attend a weekly exercise class is laughable.

Then there are these endless patient surveys we are supposed to do.

Now the average punter I meet might be persuaded to tick a few boxes on a survey form if there are not too many polysyllabic words and there is space for them to moan about not being able to get an appointment.

But no, this is no longer good enough. Apparently we can’t be trusted with paper forms any longer, so we now have to take patients’ email addresses and they will then be sent a survey to fill in online and send back to a third party who will analyse the results.

Just a small flaw with that plan: it sort of relies on all our patients owning computers. Around here there are patients who are not on the telephone and still refer to buses as charabancs.

So analyse those results if you want but they will be about as representative of our patient population as a comprehensive school educated minister is of a Conservative government.

More recently we have been given the Friends and Family test for our patients to complete.

Now personally I would like to use a pair of blunted nut crackers to remove the spleen of the individual who thought this one up. However, I suspect I might have been pipped at the post with that task.

I mean, ‘How likely are you to recommend our GP practice to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?’

No, well try a vet then.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Absolutely spot on David but who are we to criticise the know all bureaucrats in Whitehall.Ultimately you kiss the hand that feeds you.

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  • Possible that the 'the individuals who endlessly dream up more crap for us' were basing the recommendations for Pulmonary Rehab on its strong clinical evidence base, which acknowledges that some/most will choose to refuse the offer but doesn't consider that a reason not to offer?

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  • A couple of weeks ago I took my severely disabled son to an outpatient appointment. He had to have a blood test afterwards and there were 6 people ahead of us. It took 50 minutes for 2 phlebotomists to get through these 6 people but all the while a uniformed woman of a certain age who reminded me strongly of Count Duckula's nanny hung around with apparently the sole purpose of handing out Friends and Family forms to those who were waiting.

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