When I was first made aware of a recent scathing article against general practice, published in the Daily Mail, I laughed out loud. This had to be some kind of a joke, surely? But, after reading the article, I soon realised this was far more sinister.
I’m sure, by now, we are immune to the rants of the Mail telling us we are all overpaid civil servants working a nine to five job. But this is different. Professor J Meirion Thomas is an eminent senior surgeon, a colleague, trying to persuade the great British public that GPs are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Does freedom of speech give us carte blanche to write about anything we want, regardless of how derogatory or discriminatory it might be? Of course it doesn’t and we all know this. That is why there are laws to prevent a wide range of views from being eternalised into a digital footprint.
As doctors, we need to have a squeaky clean record where it comes to the law, as well as abiding by the guidance within General Medical Practice. Not only does it commit us to keeping up to date and ensuring patient safety and trust, it also tells us how to treat our colleagues.
More specifically, that we need to treat our colleagues fairly and with respect, respect their skills and contributions and be aware how our behaviour may influence others, within and outside the team.
After reading this article, I felt that the author had fallen short of the expected behaviour from a professional colleague of such high standing. I felt his statements about GPs show little respect for our skills or contribution to the NHS and I felt he had rubbished our entire profession, in an article that will be read not just by GPs but patients and medical students.
That is why I could not sit back and accept this attack on our profession. I have therefore written a three page letter to the GMC to outline my concerns about this article, which cannot be published for legal reasons.
Am I anxious about taking this action? You bet. I have no idea who he may be connected to and how it may affect my career. Do I think anything will come of this? Probably not, other than a polite letter thanking me for my concerns.
But throughout my career, in spite of the risks, the stress, the uncertainty of general practice, I have always consoled myself with going to bed at night and feeling like I have done the right thing.
And this felt like the right thing to do.
Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol.