Mr Hunt, please recognise GPs as specialists
Dr Katie Coleman's open letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to amend the Medical Act so GPs are recognised as specialist physicians
Dear Mr Jeremy Hunt,
As you will be aware, modern medicine and changes in lifestyle have resulted in people living longer but in poor health. In addition, we are seeing greater complexity across the whole human lifespan.
In order to ensure individuals are kept well for longer, GPs and their teams work hard everyday of the year, but apart from GPs no other specialism has the breadth of knowledge to ensure a holistic approach to care.
GPs are trained to step back and take a helicopter view of the whole person; assimilate the physical, emotional and social components of the individual; and generate a list of differential diagnosis, often in the space of ten minutes.
They work systematically, without direct access to specialist investigations, until they come to a diagnosis for which they initiate evidence-based interventions or refer to a single-organ specialist. As you can see, GPs are Generalist Specialist.
Yet GPs are not recognised as specialists.
At a time when we need to shift more activity away from expensive hospitals and into the community, to be cared for by GPs and their teams, we need to do everything in our power to address the recruitment crisis of general practice. Boosting the morale of GPs should, now more than ever, be seen as a priority.
Recognising GPs as specialists will not only boost morale, but will put general practice on equal footing with all other specialisms. Medical students when making a choice about their future career will no longer be asked what specialism will you choose or are you going to be 'just' a GP.
The training in general practice is rigorous. GPs must gain their certificate of completion of training and then pass the membership exam of the RCGP, which consists of a written, oral and clinical assessment. Only then are they able to practice as a GP.
As you will know, in August 2016 the RCGP and the BMA released a joint statement calling for GPs to be recognised as specialists in their own right and to bring the UK into line with other nations across the globe. In January 2017 the GMC agreed that it would actively add GPs to the specialist register, if the Medical Act was changed by parliament.
Mr Hunt, I feel passionate about my profession and I have so much respect for my GP colleagues, that I decided I could no longer sit back and do nothing. So I decided to set up a petition that had the potential to trigger a debate on the issue.
So I would ask you to sign the petition and help me to get parliament to make the changes to the Medical Act required to make general practitioners specialists.
Dr Katie Coleman FRCGP