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Patients need to be more 'accountable' for their health, suggests GP mental health lead

The lack of accountability among NHS patients is contributing to making GPs ill, the medical director of the national GP mental health service has suggested.

Professor Clare Gerada, medical director of the national GP Health Service, argued that while GPs have to give up their 'nostalgia' and adapt to the changing NHS, patients also need to take more responsibility.

Speaking at today's Westminster Health Forum on the future of general practice, Professor Gerada said nearly 1,000 GPs with issues such as anxiety, depression and addiction have now come through the service which was launched in January.

According to Professor Gerada, the GP Health Service 'is making doctors better', but she argued that to improve mental health among GPs on the whole, 'we need a new kind of practice, a new kind of doctor and a new kind of patient'.

She said practices and GPs needed to stop working 'in isolation' as this was a common driver making doctors sick. Meanwhile, GPs should be 'given time' to adapt to the changing NHS and coming up with their own solutions, making use of new technology and newly-available support staff such as practice pharmacists and physician associates.

But she added: 'If we are going to improve the health and wellbeing [of GPs] we also need a new kind of patient… I don’t think we can let patients off the hook.

'I think now, if patients want to have authority - which they are quite right to have authority over their own health – they need to also start having accountability…

'Because part of the problem at the moment is that all the accountability lies with the doctor… and the authority lies with the patient “I want this, I want that”, but if it goes wrong then if bounces back to me.'

Professor Gerada said concluded by saying that while GPs have been 'stuck on a merry-go-round of misery' she hopes the GP Health Service and other measures from NHS England's GP Forward View rescue package will instead 'instil hope' in the next generation of GPs.

Her comments come as a recent Pulse survey of over 800 GPs revealed that the stress of general practice has affected the ability of almost half of GPs to care for patients, while one in seven has turned to alcohol or drugs to cope.

The launch of the GP Health Service followed years of Pulse lobbying via the Battling Burnout campaign.

Readers' comments (16)

  • It would help, Clare, if you would stop peddling this sort of shite:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/24/prescription-dejected-doctors-stop-hark-back-to-golden-age

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  • Patient responsibility and accountability is a big issue and important to the future sustainability of the NHS in a fundamental way that many other more 'politically popular' subjects are not. Well done CG for highlighting it.

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  • Agree with @Charles Richards. Completely ignoring the elephant in the room ie the patients responsibilities has been a factor that has lead us to where we are now. To continue to ignore this has serious consequences for the NHS. For a change I would like to thank Dr Gerada for opening a discussion about it.

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  • For once CG has said something remotely sensible. I've long said that patient responsibility and accountability is in fact zero when all said and done, and so many of my colleagues fool themselves into thinking they are 'safe' because the patient agreed or pushed for it.

    When the shit hits the fan, the doctor will be in the dock not the patient. Always has been, always will be.

    Just look at GMC behaviour. Crusading to vilify and destroy doctors at every opportunity, even trying to overrule themselves when they don't like the decisions of the lesser beings within the organisation

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  • The usual management guff with virtually no real content; 'we need a new kind of practice, a new kind of doctor and a new kind of patient', 'making use of new technology and newly-available support staff such as practice pharmacists and physician associates' - all the usual meaningless jargon that gets trotted out in every CCG and LAT in the land every week. There is nothing new here and nothing of any value. I struggle to understand why people go to such events - other than it's less hassle than seeing patients.
    Meanwhile, Dr Gerada needs to be accountable for some of the nonsense she and the RCGP have produced to our detriment. Boiler checks and gambling screening anyone?

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  • Very eloquently said. I agree 💯 % with Professor Gerada.
    'Because part of the problem at the moment is that all the accountability lies with the doctor… and the authority lies with the patient “I want this, I want that”, but if it goes wrong then if bounces back to me.'

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