GPs are battling an endless stream of paperwork including a barrage of bogus whiplash enquiries – with new figures showing there were 70,000 dishonest motor claims made last year.
But that’s just the tip of a bureaucratic iceberg that is preventing GPs from tending to the sick.
Let us crackdown on the whiplash culture
If we really want our patients to be seen promptly and not have to wait a week or more – as 14.2 million did last year – to see their GP, we need society and Government in particular to free-up family doctors and stop viewing us as administrators, adjudicators and vindicators for policies and procedures gone wrong.
Seemingly everyone, including schools who are encouraging parents to get child fit notes in a bid to boost attendance records, is offering the advice ‘Go and see your GP’. And no one is doing more to drown us in a sea of time-wasting bureaucracy than personal injury specialists.
The UK has been called the ‘whiplash capital of Europe’ with 2.7 claims for whiplash damages made for every accident reported. The Government’s Compensation Recovery Unit states that there has been a recent drop of 6% in personal injury claims but that doesn’t tally with my in-tray or indeed figures released in late September that showed fraudsters are making 2,500 bogus claims per week. So much for a clampdown.
The Government is similarly lax when it comes to measuring the impact of crack-downs on benefits. Recent grumblings may mean that some proposed changes are quashed, but like you, I have received ‘The Benefits System, A short guide for GPs‘, from The Department of Work and Pensions. It claims to list the ‘simple actions’ family doctors need to take to support their patients when making a claim. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) now relies on a points system and given that charities are arguing that almost half-a-million people could lose entitlement, family doctors can expect an avalanche of enquiries from the likes of Atos Healthcare or Capita Health and Wellbeing to mediate in disputes.
Bullying bosses are plumping up our paperwork too – as well as harming our patients. I have treated people so insecure about their employment that they have begged for sick notes just a day or so into an illness.
Of course our compassion means we want to help those – particularly at their lowest, most vulnerable ebb – to settle issues such as housing disputes. But why should it even reach the point where GPs need to intervene? Has our social care system failed so much that only our word will prevent a person with COPD from being housed in a squalid damp environment? And how can large companies with presumably impressively funded HR departments permit employee disputes to snow-ball to such a point where a family doctor must take time to investigate and validate conditions such as stress?
What we are witnessing here is buck-passing, a failure to take responsibility or indeed examine the consequences of decision-making. At a time where health secretary Jeremy Hunt is making a desperate – and some might say futile – post-Brexit bid to recruit ‘English GPs’ what individual with a calling to heal the sick is going to want to spend hours poring over paperwork and mending problems that shouldn’t be hers’ or his to deal with?
Let us crackdown on the whiplash culture; stop decision-makers from transforming us into admin churning machines and prevent those who want to abdicate their responsibilities using us at their scapegoats. We are, after all, family doctors, with a duty to tend to the sick to the best of our ability and judgment.
Dr Zahid Chauhan is a GP at the Medlock Medical Practice in Failsworth, Greater Manchester. He is also a non-executive director for BARDOC (Bury and Rochdale Doctors out-of-hours service) and NWAS (North West Ambulance Service).