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I’ve seen the future and it’s all GPs’ fault

There’s just one problem with our small but perfectly formed new monthly organ. Because of the Christmas and New Year break intervening in deadlines, as I write this, you – the reader – are in the future. And I’m in the past.

It doesn’t matter, though. Because I can guarantee that what I want to cathart about – reflex, belligerent, lazy, ill-informed media reports knocking us GPs – will still be topical. After all, they happen every week.

You’d think, by now, we’d be immune to being pilloried as feckless, workshy, overpaid sons and daughters of Satan. But, personally, I’m not. In particular, I remain enraged by those sanctimonious media stories about GPs who are ‘too quick to prescribe’. And according to the finger-wagging hacks, our crimes are at their most heinous when we’re fobbing the punters off with antibiotics, anti-obesity drugs and antidepressants.

Let’s take those in order. Supposedly, we dish out ineffective antibiotics to viral patients just because we can’t be fagged to discuss the merits of fluids and paracetamol – thereby risking ADRs, anaphylaxis and the proliferation of headline-grabbing superbugs.

Similarly, we skip earnest advice about diet and exercise in favour of forcing flabbies onto medication that adds faecal incontinence to their problem list and leaves our sewers steatorrhoeic.

Instead of encouraging our depressed patients to take a walk, have a chat and go online for some non-retail therapy, we ram a funnel down their throats and pour in SSRIs, screaming, ‘Cheer up you miserable bastards.’

Except, as you and I know, that’s not what happens. There’s a simple reason why depressed/obese/fed-up-with-this-cold patients make appointments and it’s definitely not to receive a homily about the benefits of smiling/smaller plates/menthol.

No. The fact is they’ve tried the self-help stuff already or they simply can’t be arsed. They’ve come to us because they want a quick fix and we’re the ones perceived as being able to prescribe it. It takes tenacity to book and attend appointments. If journalists truly believe that by the time patients have negotiated the system, they’re arriving with a blank sheet of polite expectation rather than a bagful of sullen entitlement, then they’re deluding themselves.

Of course, we try to resist patients who act like FP10-homing devices but, sometimes, resistance is futile. Cue headline.

Clearly, things aren’t going to get any better on the media front. This year, to go with the chronic barrage over our pay and perceived incompetence, and potshots aimed at our prescribing habits, the headline writers will have loads of new ammunition with which to annihilate our reputation: doctors failing revalidation or CQC registration, CCGs restricting services, GPs receiving commissioning premium payments and so on. We might as well run over the Andrex Puppy and have done with it.

It’s an unwelcoming future. So, if it’s OK with you I’ll stay here, in the past.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.