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The messages to send to the media


Short-term boost


Our story on one-third of practices having to stop routine appointments over the past 12 months got plenty of media coverage. I found the response from the wider media interesting.

There was, of course, a lot of bemoaning the long waits for patients (though they are decreasing). But I also spotted a lot of sympathy for GPs about this. Even the Daily Mail had a front page that was, sort of, blaming the state of general practice on the lack of GPs rather than GPs being workshy golfers.

My team and I were asked to appear on the radio to provide commentary. Because this was a relatively generic story about the state of general practice, it helped us focus what messages we should be sending out from Pulse, and general practice as a whole.

Whether we like it or not, getting a sympathetic hearing from the wider media is important. And I don’t think the profession has always done this. I am not saying these messages are guaranteed to turn the tide of public opinion, but I do feel they may help get a more sympathetic press:

Appointments up, GP numbers down: I have written this in the past but this is the mantra that the profession needs to be chanting whenever the media start discussing the crisis in general practice. This is simple maths – of course patients will be waiting longer, and this is the fault of the Government, not GPs.

Emphasise the effect of burnt out GPs on patients: This is completely unfair, but the media is going to make more of GP burnout if we emphasise what this means for patients – something we have done with our workload surveys. ‘Your safety is at risk because GPs are working 13-hour days’ will make front pages; ‘GPs are burning out due to 13-hour days’ won’t make such a splash.

GPs are as frustrated as patients: I feel that this probably isn’t emphasised enough. I think the case has been made strongly that GPs are overworked and burnt out. But added to this, the problem of long waits and worsening outcomes is felt even more acutely by GPs, who are unable to provide the level of care they know they are capable of and – let’s remember – are patients and relatives of patients themselves.

The problems in primary and secondary care have the same root cause: Similarly, the tension within the medical profession has to be addressed. Primary care is under strain and secondary care is under strain. One is not causing the other – they have the same root cause, which is underfunding in health services at a time of greater demand, and the even worse underfunding of support services that help prevent ill health, such as social care, housing and public health services. GPs blaming specialists and vice versa is helping no one.

The unfair truth is that GPs (in common with teachers, social workers, civil servants) are an easy punch bag. But aligning their interests with the wider population – which they are part of – may even give the profession a fair hearing, which would be a refreshing change.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at editor@pulsetoday.co.uk

READERS' COMMENTS [2]

Azeem Majeed 4 May, 2022 4:01 pm

Thanks for getting these points into the media, Jaimie.

David Church 5 May, 2022 8:11 am

well said, well done.