Staff and associate doctors are not Noctors, but might not be much more useful, argues Copperfield
I suppose the reflex response to Charlie Massey’s reiterated and radical proposal to fill the GP workforce void with specialty and specialist grade doctors was predictable: facepalms all round. SAS doctors can no more do my work than I can do theirs. We’ve already diluted out the general practice landscape with Noctors and Phoctors and, while the SAS cavalry at least comprises actual doctors, they are not actual GPs. Besides, I defy anyone to come up with a suitable epithet. Specialists with a special interest in general practice? General spectitioners? It doesn’t work, and nor would they.
Having heard Charlie Massey expand on his plans at Pulse Live, though the penny may not have fully dropped, but I have to admit it shifted a bit. Because it seems the idea is not that the SAS act as quasi GPs, but as primary cared based mini-specialists, siphoning work appropriate to their specialty – paediatrics, elderly, acute care et al – away from us.
Which might actually work. Until, that is, you think for a moment and realise that, whatever way you dice and splice it, it won’t. If SAS’s are embedded in-house, with us, we’d have to triage relevant patients to them and, presumably, supervise what they do – which at best would be work neutral. And if they function as a PCN-level quasi-specialist service, they’d only be seeing the patients we’d have been sending to them when they worked in secondary care, just in a different location, with a workload saving of precisely zilch.
Besides, this all works on the assumption that a) They want to leap from the frying pan of hospital to the fire of general practice and b) That we GPs are perfectly happy to reinforce the burgeoning perception among public, politicians and media that, in fact, any Tom, Dick or Harriet can ‘do’ general practice. Frankly, I think neither apply.
Put simply: the lack of GPs cannot be rectified by people who aren’t, no matter well meaning the idea and diligent the staff. Only GPs can replace GPs and, as we know that is going to take forever, the cure for our woes has to lie elsewhere: specifically, in taking a massive and definable lump of workload away from us and making it entirely someone else’s responsibility. That, too, would be radical. But also workable.
Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here