I have it on good authority that a certain newspaper has recently made certain allegations about a certain sector of the medical profession. And I’m certain this is true, though I haven’t actually read it – I don’t touch this particular paper myself, as there’s only so much that hand sanitiser can do.
We all know what it would have been saying, though – at a time when lockdown is easing and society is opening up, why does general practice remain shut, why can I see my hairdresser but not my GP, why are family doctors feckless work-shirkers, splutter, red face, outrage etc.
Cue similar apoplexy in ourselves. It’s soooo unfair. Except that, perhaps, it isn’t. Maybe they have a teensy-weensy point.
After all, only the other day, I was physically examining an actual patient in real life using a proper stethoscope in my metaphorically and literally concrete consulting room, when he had the absolute gall to ask me: ‘So when are you opening up?’
You see, his perception of our triage/see-you-if-we-want approach was that, effectively, we’re still ‘closed for business’. Which actually makes sense, given that our front door remains – as it does for many practices – firmly padlocked. And preventing walk-ins as about as symbolically shut as it’s possible to be.
Some of the barricades are less overt, though. We’re still doing end-of-life care by video, and I’m sure we’re not unique in that. This is the new normal, of course, but it feels increasingly aberrant, and difficult to justify, when other community services are reverting to the old normal of F2F.
These are the elephants in the room. Or, at least, they would be, except one is locked outside trumpeting about poor access and the other, in the absence of a wide-angle lens, is eclipsing my video screen. The uncomfortable truth is that the modus operandi the pandemic forced on us is increasingly looking like a way of working we’re now choosing, even though many patients hate it.
And that’s fine. But we need to find ways of making current and prospective GP access explicit and understandable to the public, while giving it all a positive spin. Otherwise, we can anticipate more headlines and, ultimately, NHSE intervention.
That process start by deciding among ourselves what we think is reasonable. And that, in turn, means taking a long, hard look in the mirror. But don’t worry, that particular paper no longer actually exists.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield