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‘Make do and mend’ attitude won’t help GPs

‘We definitely need some new parts, Dad, it’s knackered,’ my two sons said a few weeks ago, after our first track day of the season.

In case you didn’t already know, my family are all petrolheads. I enjoy nothing more than belting around a racetrack in a high performance track car, sharing the driving with my two sons who spent their formative years inhaling the glorious smell of burning rubber and petrol – hence the term petrolheads.

The car in question performed faultlessly last year (which is more than can be said for the drivers) and you’d expect some wear and tear in tyres, brakes, spark plugs and battery. 

But as I’m financially austere (or ‘a tight b*****d’, as one son would say), I decided to see how the car performed this year without spending any money on it.

This turned out to be a bad decision.

So I forked out on new parts and I’ve spent the last few weeks fettling in the garage. Now we’re all set for the next track with worn parts replaced, nuts tightened and shiny bits polished. As long as it stays dry, we should have a great car to drive. As we petrolheads say, stay on track and keep the car shiny side up.

If you ask me, general practice is knackered as well.  What with a third of us planning on retiring within the next five years and a third of GP training places unfilled across the UK, it’s no wonder all of us feel worn out.

And despite our best efforts, in my practice we find that we have to make patients wait longer to see us, and we say no more frequently.

When something is knackered, you sometimes have to spend money on it to fix it or it will remain broken: general practice is one of those things. 

I worry, though, that unlike my car, general practice may be beyond saving, because it needs more than cold hard cash. Love, care and attention are also needed to restore us to our former glory and until general practice gets some TLC, you can’t blame young doctors from turning away from our profession.

Oh, and regarding The Other Issue I’m Not Supposed To Mention, my practice is still waiting for a response from NHS England following a meeting more than a month ago. Which is fine – we’re in no rush. We are continuing as we did before with an informally managed list (because we’re not allowed to say ‘closed’) and we still haven’t made any steps to apply for formal closure either. 

We’re still looking for a partner as well. Any trainees out there want to join us?

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.