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We need to capitalise on the enthusiasm for general practice

Dr Matt Piccaver writes

From Dr Matt Piccaver, Glemsford, Suffolk

Doctors seem to be taking a bit of a battering at the moment - we’ve been accused of lacking vocation, not working hard enough and being a barrier to change. Junior doctors in England face a contract that may lead to lower pay for more work, staff are tired and demoralised, and hospitals are declared failures. The environment within the NHS is toxic.

As a profession we’ve been increasingly vocal in highlighting the plight of general practice. This means that medical students and junior doctors are all too aware of how we feel, and general practice seems a less attractive option. 

But at the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow, there was a fightback. Professor Maureen Baker, RCGP chair, demanded that GP funding return to 11% of the NHS budget and Scottish health secretary Shona Robison provided assurances that junior doctor pay would not be cut, announcing a new GP contract with the winding down of the QOF.

The passion for general practice is still out there

And despite the anti-doctor rhetoric, the feeling at the conference was that people are still choosing to become a GP, and many of us are still passionate about our vocations.

Dr Emily Manning, a GP partner in Cambridgeshire who came from Canada to study medicine as a graduate and never left, told me it was ‘the most rewarding job’ she’d ever had. Dr Emma Gayton, a former academic endocrinologist, and new GP partner described the past year as ‘the best year in my entire career’.

The trainees are positive too. Dr Tim Sharp, an academic GP trainee, who left a job in the City to retrain as a doctor wanted to ‘help people along their life path’ and was passionate about helping provide high quality care within the NHS.

Meanwhile Daryl Newland, a fourth year medical student, said he was already interested in general practice which had done the most ‘to engage and support’ him beyond teaching.

Despite the portrayal of doctors as villains and the extreme challenges the NHS is facing, people are still choosing to become doctors, and still eager to go into general practice. While I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t look tired, the passion for general practice is still out there. Perhaps it’s time to capitalise on that renewed enthusiasm. Now all we need to do is convince a certain Mr Hunt.

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Readers' comments (27)

  • Barf, vomit, sick, boooooo

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  • Give it time - they'll soon learn.

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  • 3.26
    I'd hate to call you cynical because you are right. Give me that 4th year medic and I'll turn them into a private ophthalmologist!

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  • Please tell me that both Dr Manning and Gayter are full-time GPs doing extended hours in non dispensing practices and have children and hobbies. Otherwise its irrelevant.

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  • You rcgp clones are all the same. Why any sensible person would want to pay £500 a year to belong to your organisation is completely beyond me. When are you going to do something positive about the GP crisis,eg tell the gmc to dump pointless Revalidation, which you played a major role in introducing !? I retired early because I found Revalidation pointless and demeaning, and many gps feel exactly the same

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  • This comment has been moderated

  • Hi all.

    Thanks for the constructive feedback there. I have no affiliation to the RCGP, I just go to the conference every now and again. It's 2 days out of practice, if nothing else. I'm still sat in surgery after a 60 hour week. It's Friday night. Most of my friends are in the pub, or spending evenings with their families. I can't say the job is fun all the time. But unless we do something to change the profession, and bring in new blood, we're in trouble. I'm a partner, have a massive loan on the building in which I'm sat, and need new blood to eventually buy it off me. But unless we engage and shape our profession, we'll be victims.

    The job is frequently miserable, but unless we start talking ourselves up a bit, then we won't have replacements. Those of us who'll need to sell our share in our premises will be saddled with debts that we can't actually pay.

    The only thing I've wanted to be is a doctor, and if any of you have read my articles in other arenas, they aren't all positive. But there's enough of the GP misery memoir out there to mean we'll never recruit.

    But once again, thank you for your feedback. I hope some of you out there eventually go on to enjoy your careers, or find new ones if you don't.

    Time for that beer.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I stick to what I said in the past . This is a war and we cannot expect everybody completed training would stay as this environment is well less than healthy. There are many things more important in life which is only short. Make your decision where to go and try not to regret.
    But for those of you , honourable ones,who choose to stay , you derserve all respect and admiration . The flag of NHS ,with GPs as the gatekeeper and guardian , has to fly and our common enemy wants to burn down this flag. It is not a matter of convincing but a battle to fight.......

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  • RCGP are part of the problem, not the solution; happily volunteering us as social workers whenever the good-idea fairy calls, colluding in driving older GPs into early retirement by supporting appraisal - an evidence free intervention, the ghastly e-portfolio, ridiculously expensive exams, regarding the business-side of General Practice as beneath them if not actually wicked, and finally colluding with selling most of us into serfdom with super-practices and federations.

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  • The RCGP is another good reason to emigrate. GP is a great career, just not in the NHS.

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  • Vinci...balanced as always. I can't say I'm not utterly frazzled. I've got thoughts on how to improve things but it means GP led if not delivered PCOs covering large patches. Local branches of the GP service rather than "your GP". But we would have flexibility of career path and make best use of dwindling resources. I'm not sure I want to be " on the tools" forever... But I'd still like to be a Dr.

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