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No one likes us and we do care

No one likes us and we do care

Dr Copperfield wonders why GPs get blamed for NHS woes despite standing in for striking ambulance workers and hospital colleagues

Of all the new normals they have these days – feckless politicians, bitchy Royals, Arsenal top of the league – perhaps the most notable is the collapsing NHS. No one bats an eyelid at the 8am stampede for GP appointments, the holding pattern of ambulances outside A&E or the excess death counts: unreliability and dysfunction now appear to be part of the NHS mission statement.

But while we’ve normalised the National Hopeless Service, we’ve polarised something else: the opinion of the public about who are the goodies and baddies within that system.

On the one hand, ambulance delays, hospital waiting lists and interminable waits in A&E are blamed on useless politicians. And on the other, the various and repeatedly aired ‘deficiencies’ of primary care are blamed on us GPs. In other words, despite pantomime season being over, hos docs, paramedics and nurses are cast as the angels of mercy while we’re hissed at for being villains. Why?

True, unlike those in secondary care, we’re self-employed, and therefore theoretically more responsible for our own services. But in practice, we know this is an illusion – and besides, it’s a technicality largely lost on the public and media.

Maybe it’s a Covid hangover, with the public still livid because of their misconception of us shutting up shop while they happy-clapped the real NHS heroes. Yet much of secondary care also appeared to go AWOL in the pandemic and even now, many hospital clinics still run remotely while we long ago defaulted back to F2F.

Perhaps it’s those emotive images of fractured old ladies groaning through a 24-hour wait for an ambulance, and the hordes bedding down on A&E floors until relief finally comes through triage or coma. But our waiting rooms are overflowing, too. And if you want real pathos, check out the endless queues of sick supplicants outside your local surgery’s front door next Monday morning.

So maybe it’s just the bad old media distorting, moulding and poisoning the view of the public. This is something they do very well, after all. Then again, they’ve been doing it for years, but I don’t recall GP stock ever being quite this low.

Which means maybe it’s something else. Perhaps the answer lies in something a patient said to me the other day when the subject of the NHS strikes came up. You might think the fact we’re still manning the front line while others are waving ‘more dosh’ placards would score us brownie points. But no. As he pointed out about medics and paramedics manning the picket lines, ‘At least it shows they care’. The implication being, of course, that our lack of militancy is typical of our don’t-give-a-toss attitude.

Ouch. No one likes us because they think we don’t care. Worse still, it wasn’t that long ago that our USP was being the caring, human constant in an otherwise faceless, distant and robotic NHS. The patient’s advocate: remember that? The pandemic, the disintegration of our role and the death of continuity seem to have put paid to that, certainly in the public’s eyes, and hell hath no fury like a patient scorned.  

So either we go out on strike ourselves or we start hugging the punters, and let’s face it, neither of those is going to happen. 

Which I think means we’re stuffed.

Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Douglas Callow 10 February, 2023 2:05 pm

Spoke to my wife and son about this the other day and their reply was much the same
The 8am scramble for appointments and public awareness that the access and quality of services is not what it was 10 years ago drives the dissatisfaction
The fact that its weaponised by the press politicians and the keyboard warriors doesn’t cut it
We cant strike as we are deemed to be more than handsomely rewarded
Barriers to access in the eyes of the public outweigh any lingering hope for consistency
They agreed none of the venom and bile was fair but pretty much felt we were screwed
2023 sees a teetering economy on verge of recession Ferrell government who are not interested in ‘underworked and overpaid GPs”

Decorum Est 10 February, 2023 3:47 pm

Excellent synopsises from Copperfield and Callow!

Nathaniel Dixon 12 February, 2023 10:39 am

It’s concerted effort from politicians and their friends in the press. Blame the frontline – including GPs for their own miserable failures unfortunately the public are foolish enough to be taken in by a lot of it.

A Non 14 February, 2023 4:14 pm

Don’t be a GP. Leave. People hate GPs. Even your brother, mother and father..everyone. Don’t be one. People hate you for trying. Leave it to AI. People can hate that instead

Paul Burgess 16 February, 2023 10:13 pm

No, they don’t hate us they just haven’t a clue what we actually do. And they are peed off that they don’t understand.
And that’s everyone -from the punters to the Daily Wail, to the Govt and Opposition Party.
The patients miss the packed waiting rooms that they experienced as a sort of exhilarating challenge.

Liam Topham 20 February, 2023 8:37 am

“the misconception of us shutting up shop during the pandemic”
perhaps not totally a misconception?

John Evans 21 February, 2023 10:42 am

The BMA gunpowder spoiled. While the profession waited, the economy evolved with the GP workload:reward ratio deteriorating and GP stock with it’s customers in significant deficit.

Can’t afford to pay every enough to correct up to 10-20years of stagnation so the most critical elements will get preferential treatment.

Negotiation will get nowhere. Mass resignation from the contract to allow GPs to reclaim sufficient control may still be effective. The risk being that the private providers will be ready to step up in many regions. However, that would just mean that primary care arrives at the end point a little earlier than is being planned.

Take back control of your lives. Courage and self-esteem?

C Ovid 1 March, 2023 12:58 pm

“unlike those in secondary care, we’re self-employed, ” I don’t think we’re self employed, not properly anyway as we are tied in by the apron strings to NHS pension, Notional Rent, Rates reimbursement, and also to non-competition and non-goodwill rules. We have a monopoly client (hey, where are you!!) and on IR35 rules we would not qualify.
Always been a bit of a shallow bribe to make GPs feel like the entrepreneurs that they aren’t: good for their egos. So lets leave. I bet we would have less than a month without a boosted income and better T&Cs. We still don’t press the advantage of being in short supply: look a the price of peppers!!
Who cares if the public don’t like us.. you still need us so shut up..