So you’ve read it – the 16-page open letter to patients from a practice in Derbyshire. And you’ll have your own opinion. I do. Here are 16 things I think are wrong with it.
1. It’s way too soft on the bastards.
2. Just kidding! That was simply my way of grabbing your attention, and getting the comments-cohort onside.
3. It’s too long. I mean, really. 16 pages. Jeez. I have a vested interest, and I sympathise with a lot of this stuff. But I’ve tried to digest it three times and I still find myself speed-scroll-reading about two thirds of the way through.
4. That’s ironic, given that many of the points made relate to patients not reading/following advice/instructions. How can the solution to this be a 7,500 word+ manifesto?
5. Yes, I know there’s a one-page summary, but still.
6. Conclusion over length and tone: this is catharsis. This I understand – you only need to look at the pic heading up this blog for proof. But primal scream therapy is for the screamer. So this isn’t really for the benefit of patients at all.
7. The stuff about online consulting leaves you vertiginous. It’s imposed by the Government. But it can stop patients bothering the GP. But patients are too feckless to use it properly. But they should make the effort to do so. But then they manipulate it. Etc.
8. Its tone is overly aggressive and anti-patient, and I speak as a GP who wants to punch each and every punter in the face by the end of Monday morning surgery.
9. It’s not just the overall feel that achieves this, it’s the specific examples given when the rant after-burners are turned to max, about halfway through. Such as:
10. Patients should sort themselves out.
11. They shouldn’t present lists.
12. They pretend problems are urgent when they aren’t.
13. The mildly mentally ill ignore the support available (what are they like?!).
14. Medical advice from clever professionals – who deserve better – is ignored.
15. All of which may be true. But it’s also true that this comes over as a massive, doctor-centred, finger-wag-fest, which will certainly make the job of anti-GP media columnists so much easier, this week’s angle being that GPs seem to think the system should be built around their needs rather than the patients’.
16. By emphasising online consulting, signposting, open access and self-reliance in the manner of a lupine howl, and by failing to acknowledge the possible value to the NHS and patient of gatekeeping, continuity and the therapeutic value of human contact with a health professional, this could well be the longest general practice suicide note ever.
I don’t know. I’m conflicted. Because I like and can relate to Munch’s ‘The Scream’. But I also like and can relate to ‘Fildes’ ‘The Doctor’. And, one of these days, we’ll be patients, too.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield