Editor Jaimie Kaffash gives his take on the controversial blog that divided opinion
Our columnist Dr Katie Musgrave has caused quite the stir. Her blog, We have medicalised normal life and it’s destroying the NHS, has been slammed on social media and emails I’ve received from patients and doctors. However, the response from GPs – especially in the comments on the blog – have been overwhelmingly supportive.
If you haven’t read it – and I would advise that you do, whether you agree with it or not – Katie’s point is that the NHS and especially GPs are dealing with problems that it shouldn’t need to, at a time when it is unable to fulfil its basic functions. She says she finds herself ‘explor[ing] the minutiae of a lady’s menopausal flushes’, ‘counsel[ling] anxious parents on sleep training, reflux and weaning’, or ‘discussing tantrums or mood swings’.
Now, the first thing to say is that PulseToday is a website specifically for GPs, and this blog was written for a GP audience. Personally, when I first read it, I thought it was fascinating. But, if I am honest, I profoundly disagreed with it (perhaps partly because I am not the one who is dealing with this level of demand). But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that at its heart, the point is undeniable that normal life has been medicalised.
Where I disagree with Katie is the role of patients’ responsibility for this. For me, these ‘menopausal ladies’ and overly anxious patients are not doing anything wrong. Nor, I have to say, is the NHS to blame. We have medicalised normal life because the societal support structures are no longer there.
The austerity of the past 12 years has not only led to NHS funding being cut, but even more drastically other services. Across all public sectors, the support is not there: education, housing, council spending, public health and, more than anything, social care. Meanwhile, the economy is in dire straits, and we have climate change on the horizon (if not already here). A lot of these people’s problems are born of anxiety, because there is so much to be anxious about.
So these members of the public who are struggling with normal life either have nowhere else to turn or have personal problems that have developed into actual health issues.
The fact is that – through no fault of GPs – it is no fun trying to access NHS services at the moment (we all know how many GPs are needed, and that this Government has given up even trying to find them). Yet patients, who in an ideal world would be going to the right public service in the first place, still go through the process of getting an appointment. I would suspect that in many cases, the ‘lady’s menopausal flushes’ are hiding an issue big enough for them to access a GP in the first place.
This is easy for me to say. I am not the person getting more and more burnt out, dealing with people for whom general practice is the last resort but who really shouldn’t be there. The sentiments expressed by Katie and commenters are completely understandable.
But let’s place the blame at the right place – at the door of this Government and its predecessors.
There was a typo in the original piece where it said ‘No, I have to say, the NHS is to blame’. This was supposed to read ‘Nor, I have to say, is the NHS to blame’