By virtue of being an outspoken individual (I accept gobby and stroppy too), I find myself increasingly meeting the great and the good of medical politics.
But who are these people toiling in the soil of general practice?
It’s good to be able to meet people in the flesh, and also to meet those who are working away behind the scenes and whose input is less well known.
But I have to admit that I sometimes meet people and think: ‘Really? You’re representing us? Are you sure?’
I guess this is inevitable in such a diverse profession, but all the rhetoric is always that the leaders of this or that group are busy ‘engaging with grassroots GPs’.
But who are these people toiling in the soil of general practice? As with the ‘hard-working people’ or ‘the squeezed middle’ often cited by politicians, I have no clear idea who is meant by the ‘grassroots’.
I’d argue anyone working most of their sessions in clinical practice and who doesn’t have any role in medical politics or a formal organisation qualifies as a grassroots GP.
But are GP partners less ‘grassrootsy’ under this definition? Are you less worthy of representation if you have decided to take time out of the practice to train or carry out appraisals?
Indeed, I wonder if I still qualify for help myself. The online group I am part of – GP Survival – has grown dramatically, and I now find myself sitting on my LMC and the BMA sessional subcommittee. Does that mean I’m no longer sought after in the battle for GP support?
It feels a bit like our leaders are so busy in the playground shouting ‘my gang is better than your gang’ that the real questions are being lost. Somewhere in the quest to be the ultimate grassroots GP group, or the body that listens to and represents GPs best, we seem to have forgotten what we are doing.
We all represent the profession. Different facets, different groups, but all of us. To be bickering about it in public (as has happened recently on social media) does our profession a disservice. As any parent knows, you can fight like hell behind closed doors, but when the kids are watching, keep a united front. The Government must be rubbing its hands together with glee as we snipe at each other.
I’ll admit I can be a vocal critic when the need arises – I’ve probably been as guilty as the next person of perpetuating this. But as the pressure continues to rise in general practice and we all struggle to stay afloat, here’s an idea. A proverbial olive branch.
Let’s all get together in a room – with cake and alcohol – and let’s thrash it out. Once and for all, let’s bury the hatchet somewhere other than in the heads of our perceived rivals, and agree to disagree out of sight.
Every GP group has a place. Every GP group represents someone or it wouldn’t exist. Let’s find some common ground before the subsidence lays waste to us all.
I’m up for it. And maybe the next time someone asks: ‘But who represents grassroots GPs?’, they might actually get a helpful answer.
Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull
20 December 2021
21 September 2021