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My short-term plan to save general practice

dr zoe norris duo 1500x1000px

dr zoe norris duo 1500x1000px

The long-term plan is published, the partnership review is published and, as I write this, we are waiting to hear about this year’s contract negotiations.

So I thought this would be a good time to bring you the Norris plan for general practice. It is short and sweet. Able to be understood by even the most partisan politician, or aspiring leader.

After all, it only has one recommendation: look after GPs.

If you can spare me another 60 seconds, I will expand. Do you currently feel looked after as a GP? Think about the last time someone – anyone – said you had done a good job. If you are lucky it will have been a patient. If you are unlucky, you might not even be able to remember. That’s because we get almost no positive feedback from NHS England, politicians or the press.

My plan is short and sweet. It has only one recommendation: look after GPs

Saying ‘general practice is the backbone of the NHS’ means nothing unless it is backed up by actions. My message to ministers and managers is: look after us by doing the simple things that everyone in every job should expect. These seem obvious to me:

Trust us – have faith that we are professionals who want to do the right thing for our patients. If you give us money to spend on improving patient care, trust that we will do so without making us jump though a million hoops. And trust that, actually, if we do choose to give ourselves a long-overdue pay rise, that is an entirely valid thing to do. We know what we’re doing, so trust us to run the business of general practice and you will see the benefits. You never know, aspiring medical students might see GPs being trusted and rewarded and decide they want to join us.

Show us gratitude – don’t give us meaningless platitudes. Show us. For example, how about this year you let all practices close early on Christmas Eve? For the nominal cost of half a day’s out-of-hours cover, you could buy yourself several months of goodwill. Or help us thank our staff. Rather than berating us about profits, fund practices so that all staff can be on a living wage.

Help us to improve our skills – fund a half-day of CPD for all GPs each week. It’s in the model salaried contract. So should partners and locums miss out? A half-day for all GPs, centrally funded. Small outlay on out of hours, big increase in workforce retention, because we won’t feel so utterly broken.

Fight our corner – and not just in a crowdpleasing speech at a GP conference. In every press briefing, at every opportunity. Tell all your mates in the tabloid world to give us a break. Get some good news stories out there from average practices. Don’t just visit hospitals, come to a GP surgery. Not a shiny new one that makes you look good, but a traditional practice where most of us work. Spend a day with us as we go about our practice, and then admit you had no idea and it looks bloody hard.

Look after GPs, and we will look after our patients and the whole system. Remember, we do 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS.

Now, while I wait for the call to say this is going to happen, I’ll go and feed my pet unicorn.

Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull