This site is intended for health professionals only

It’s just too easy for us to blame others for the GP crisis

Dr Pete Deveson BLOG duo_3x2

It is with great regret that I must inform my GP readers that yet another item has been added to the near-infinite list of things that are All Your Fault.

Much like the preposterous line that any attempt to point out the folly of the Brexit goat rodeo we’re heading towards is ‘talking the country down’, we learned this week from Health Minister Steve Brine MP that the ‘counsel of despair’ emanating from the nation’s GPs is the cause of our current recruitment crisis.

Yes, it’s the classic school bully ‘why-are-you-hitting-yourself’ move straight from the Nelson Muntz playbook. It was bad enough when we had this victim-blaming nonsense from our own RCGP chair (whose ‘positivity’ was, almost inevitably, singled out for praise by Mr Brine) but to hear it from a minister of the very Department of Health that is doing so much to make GPs’ working lives unsustainable really takes the biscuit.

Now I’m aware that by simply by writing this blog I lay myself open to ministerial accusations of proving his point for him; certainly with every embittered keystroke I can feel the Counsel-Of-Despair-O-Meter ratcheting up towards the critical zone.

Not one MP mentioned GP income has dropped year-on-year for more than a decade

Well, I’m sorry; perhaps if I was an academic-GP-cum-politician commuting first class from homeopathic levels of patient contact on the mandatory subs of a dwindling band of trainees I might find it easier to portray Primary Care 2018 as a land of milk and honey, but I feel we have a moral duty to tell it how it is.

The fifty-something generation above me are serenely heading westwards in droves towards the undying lands of early retirement, and I should make out to the halflings coming through to replace them that Sauron’s a pushover? Not gonna lie, I still enjoy my job and there are many reasons to recommend it, but pretending they’re not outweighed by the negatives at the moment would be like making a copy of that videotape in The Ring that kills you if you don’t pass it on to show in the VTS training afternoon.

Mr Brine’s comments may have grabbed the headlines, but the most depressing aspect of this story for me went almost unnoticed. His ‘counsel of despair’ remark came at the close of a parliamentary discussion about recruitment and retention of GPs, and during that ninety-minute debate not one MP mentioned the fact that GP income has dropped in real terms year-on-year for more than a decade.

Call me a negative ninny if you must but don’t you think that might have just a teensy-weensy bit of relevance to the problem at hand? Oh shucks, there I go, talking the profession down again. Sorry Steve, I’ll try harder in future.

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey