Dr Bill Cunningham has been a GP in Corbridge, Northumberland, since 1979 Jo Carlowe spoke to him about the hot topics in his practice
Will you opt out of this responsibility?
Yes no other option makes sense.
Will out-of-hours care be less safe once responsibility transfers from GPs to primary care organisation?
It is envisaged that our co-operative (Northern Doctors Urgent Care) be commissioned to provide out-of-hours services. The standards, I am sure, will be maintained but the service is likely to change. Anxieties were rife when we moved from practice rota to the co-op. I am sure similar anxieties on the next move will be unfounded.
A clause in the new contract gives PCTs licence to clamp down on non-generic prescribing. Is that a good or bad thing?
Generic prescribing currently stands at 82 per cent in west Northumberland. This is surprising given that eight of our 15 practices dispense but has been achieved via an active local clinical governance programme. It is unlikely any future 'pressure' will be necessary.
The Daily Mail recently published another story questioning the safety of MMR. Will you feel any impact from this?
You would expect the publicity to have shaken people's confidence but our immunisation rates for MMR have remained high. This is a credit to our child health group which supports and advises the mums.
The paper claims adding MMR to PCT star ratings indicators will cause GPs to bully patients into acceptance. Is that a point?
This represents the nonsense of tabloid journalism. The relationship you build up with the mother helps when she has to make decisions about immunisations. Informing, discussing, explaining are better ways of describing what really goes on.
Are there adequate occupational health services for GPs in your area?
We have an embryonic occupational service which needs to be expanded. In addition the LMC has supported mentorship for GPs with difficulties. It would be good to see this rolled out to all GPs as part of the support available to survive the modern NHS.
Is it right for GPs to remove heartsink patients from their lists?
I do not feel this is reasonable unless patient behaviour is intolerable through aggression. What is general practice if not in part the management of patients with such problems?
When you remove patients from your list do you tell them why?
This has only happened once in the last 10 years when a patient threatened a GP with a knife. We made it clear why he had to leave!
How did you react to the news of Harold Shipman's death?
By taking his own life he has avoided the life sentence imposed on him and thus real justice. He has also denied the grieving relatives any way of understanding his motives and therefore any peace of mind.
What's the most bizarre out-of-hours request you've ever receive?
I was called at 8.15am by a farmer's wife whose husband was having difficulty peeing. He had been in acute retention for some time but refused to call for help until the doctors was 'up and around'. This is only bizarre in the light of the current 24-hour culture.If you would like to let other GPs know what you are talking about in your surgery please contact firstname.lastname@example.org