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Yes, Sarah Baxter, we do need GPs

Dr Kailash Chand

I have more than 30 years’ experience of being a GP and it saddens me to hear the continual denigrating of general practice by the likes of Sarah Baxter in a respectable newspaper like the Sunday Times. 

Another day, another GP bashing. Is there a conspiracy to kill off the jewel in the crown of the NHS; ‘General Practice’ and to fatally undermine the envy of the world; ‘The NHS’? There is no doubt that we have variation in standards of primary care which needs addressing. However, by and large, the primary care model in the UK is undoubtedly one of the best.

I challenge Sarah Baxter to find a model anywhere in the world that can match the range, remit and responsibility that we provide as British GPs

Allow me to educate Sarah, about how general practice functions in Europe and beyond, where GPs spend longer with patients, such as the 20-minute consultations that are common in Holland. Or where whole chunks of clinical care aren’t even done by GPs, such as in Spain, where all smears are done by gynacologists or Hungary and the Czech Republic, where all children are seen by paediatricians, and indeed in most of Europe, where patients see specialists freely, without any reference to their GP.

Or in Sweden where out-of-hours services start at 5pm, and where, between midnight and morning, there is no primary care, and patients instead attend A&E or call an ambulance. And in the whole of Europe, no nation operates targets or makes systematic data entry, nor measurement of practice performance of chronic diseases.

Let’s see what a UK GP does; where every single patient wanting to see a specialist must see their GP first, and where we, manage bulk of patient care, as well as the continuing transfer of work from hospitals. We comprehensively provide the entire spectrum of clinical care without exception, from baby checks to the elderly, managing chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, heart failure, epilepsy, even renal disease, which would be completely alien to the reality of GPs in other countries. Where this information is systematically recorded with registers and exemplary standards of care, via the quality and outcome framework, that has no international parallel.

And where we have superlative trust and satisfaction ratings that tower over journalists and politicians, and where patients see us as advocates, helping them through thick and thin, from stress at work to coping with grief, and where patients even resort to phoning us from A&E or a hospital bed, pleading with us to sort out their plight. And when the system fails anywhere, from an ambulance not turning up, to a hospital appointment cancelled, or a disability benefit that’s been refused, it’s us to whom they turn to pick up the pieces. And it’s the GPs’ door where the buck stops. And we’re paid just £70 per patient to do all this, a fixed amount for an unlimited number of consultations or visits per year, where in spite of this we prescribe more cost effectively.

Moreover, we do this with fewer GPs per head than most of Europe. I challenge Sarah Baxter to find a model anywhere in the world that can match the range, remit and responsibility that we take on and provide as British GPs. Our system of general practice offers an amazingly cost-effective service with a quality of care that is second to none. The GP bashing, which is now an almost daily feature from certain section of media and politicians needs stopping. This current animosity for GPs is so politically driven. They are so overworked and undervalued. Who would want to become a GP now?

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Readers' comments (20)

  • Bob Hodges

    Spot on! Excellent clarity.

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  • Well said :) Thank you Dr Chand. No need to challenge her, her motives are obvious and stem either from ignorance or malice. As you say the evidence unequivocally proves that Primary Care in the UK is the best in the world, delivering excellent care with less cost than most of the developed world.

    If Sarah doesn't want to see her GP, then by all means she is welcome to self refer to private specialists every day of the week.

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  • rather than writing this on here where she is unlikely to read it - have you sent it in as a comment/complaint/letter to the Sunday Times? Perhaps if our doctors organisations made a little more effort to be media savy and bombarded the media with our view we might do better.

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  • Why doesn't the BMA/RCGP hire a decent PR firm and get positive stories in the press every day? surely this would help morale and recruitment? Every time i watch TV i wish i was a RN engineer (because of the adverts)

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  • She knows all this. You are completely missing the point. She has been instructed by Murdoch to run down the NHS so it becomes acceptable for it to be privatised. Arguing with them is futile - they are playing a different game. Drip drip drip it goes, the corrosive poison.

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  • 'Why doesn't the BMA/RCGP hire a decent PR firm and get positive stories in the press every day? surely this would help morale and recruitment?'

    This is a valid point. There has been a huge rise In lobbyists and PR. Most of these companies are employed by large corporate bodies. I doubt that the BMA RCGP have enough money to fund an on going campaign.

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  • No need for conspiracy theory. We all know there are plenty of folk who have no idea what we get up to, and are mystified by our whining for more money when we are already handsomely paid. There are good amounts of money lining up in the NHS coffers for GP in the next 5 years. It all depends on how we are allowed to spend it...

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  • Agree.

    She will not even feel embarrassed or shame when she ultimately finds out what we do in her (not long now) advanced old age.

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  • once again I have to write this: The constant GP bashing is a deliberate policy of the tory dominated media, it is not that the authors are ignorant or misinformed, it is malicious and their agenda is to destroy our morale and spread lies about GP to the British Public in preparation for the GP contract about to be doled out by J Hunt et al, it is a systematic campaign to destroy us, arguing with such evil does not work, debating with it does not work, even trying to negotiate it with it does not work, it is akin to Mr Chamberlain trying to pitch a deal with Hitler, you CANNOT argue with these people, they know that they are writing fiction but that is the point, these untruths serve their very purpose, the only riposte is to remain strong and steadfast to our united goal of safeguarding general practice as we know it for the survival of primary care in the UK

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  • She's a journalist with a history degree who has to fill a page on re-cycled paper. Who cares what she thinks.

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