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Dr Tony Ball: ‘GPs have become more defensive’

A GP in Birmingham, Dr Ball recalls the loss of out-of-hours and the golden era of the Red Book.

One change for the better has been the removal of 24-hour responsibility for patients. It was wrong to expect one person to be responsible 24 hours a day, but still I have mixed feelings. When my patients knew it was me on call, and that I'd be in the surgery at 9 the next morning, they were more considerate about calling me out. Even as a singlehander I was only called out around three or four times a fortnight.

The job itself is largely unchanged, but GPs have become more defensive in the way they practise. We're better paid now, but I'm disappointed that the pay rises that put GPs back on a par with other professionals are made to make us look overpaid.

The best time to be in practice was the 1980s. Things were nicely structured. With the Red Book we knew where we were. Now things vary around the country and we have a piecemeal health service – rather than a national one. The worst time was around 1990 when we started working to targets.

The biggest missed opportunity has been the computerisation of the NHS. I'm horrified at the mess they're making of Connecting for Health.

Dr Tony Ball, 69, Birmingham

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