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New Year’s predictions

2014 is upon us and it’ll be a formidable year for GPs.  There’ll be QOF changes and DES casualties in April and pilots for open-all-hours primary care.  They’ll be monitoring us even more too: CQC visits, published GP incomes, thousands of GPs passing through the revalidation process.

This much we know.  But there’s a fair bit we don’t.  In the face of unknown unknowns, rather than looking wistfully onto the wasteland through Johari’s fourth window, how about turning to search engines for elusive answers?

I discovered a hitherto unknown talent of Google during an episode of Strictly Come Dancing: it can predict your question before you’ve finished asking.  Brucey had failed to appear for a second week on the trot, struck down with ‘flu.’  I didn’t buy it and was convinced that something more sinister had afflicted the nation’s favourite light entertainer.  iPad on hand, I tapped in ‘Is Bruce Forsyth…’

Before I could complete my sentence, Google suggested: ‘…ill,’ ‘…a sir,’ and, most disturbingly ‘…dead yet?’

Clearly, millions of UK Forsyth fans had been plagued by similar concerns.  Google was offering up the trending Brucey queries of the moment.

In this, the first few days of the New Year, what better way to get a feel for the primary care zeitgeist than utilize the search engine.  So what are our patients wanting to know? 

Search one: ‘Does my GP…’ 

A controversial start as ‘…fancy me?’ appears first. Perhaps certain colleagues are giving out dodgy vibes.  ‘…have to see me’ and ‘…need to be local’ are pretty pertinent, with calls from Government to offer more telephone consultations, and the abolition of practice boundaries.

Second up: ‘Will my GP…’,

Google: ‘…do an STI test?’  No problem, so long as you’re aged 16-24, sexually active and asymptomatic.  If it’s positive and we treat you, we get a fiver too.

Finally : ‘Are GP’s…’

Now I appreciate we’ve been vilified all year in the press, but the query ‘…doctors?’ reflects a dismal low point in public perception.  Has the Daily Mail finally convinced punters that we didn’t even go to medical school?  

That was followed by ‘…paid too much?’  Well there’s a hot topic, not to mention we’re moonlighting in struggling Emergency Departments on our days off. 

According to predictive web searching then, the GP of 2014 is an overpaid call handler prone to flirtation.  She has no formal medical qualification but can offer a free STI test.  I’m almost certain Google’s got this one wrong.

Tom Gillham is a GP in Hertfordshire and Specialty Doctor in A&E. You can follow him @tjgillham.