This site is intended for health professionals only

Should GPs have a best-before date?

Because my wife and I are trying to be as healthy as possible we only have puddings on Sundays. 

You might think this is pretty immature but unfortunately as a result of this we argue more.

It’s usually about cream. In our house, it’s a major subject of discussion. As we only have puddings once a week, the cream my wife buys for that weekends desert doesn’t get used up so it’s stored in the fridge for the following weekend. But by then it might be a tad past it’s best-before date.

So what, you might say? That’s the stance my wife takes. According to a consumer programme on Radio 4, she tells me, the definition of a best by or use by date is now simple: best-before dates are when the product is beginning to deteriorate from its best, and use-by dates means the product might kill you if consumed after this date. 

Leftover cream that’s a week past its best-before date tastes OK to my wife, so it is OK to eat irrespective of the date on the lid.

I (usually) accept her logic. After all, if you only get pudding once a week, what sane person would refuse cream if it’s still alright to eat?

While I was eating a particularly yummy pudding last Sunday, I began thinking about whether GPs should have a use-by date. After all, the increase in medical knowledge is probably exponentially increasing and what some of us learnt in medical school 30 years ago is well and truly past it’s best-before. The risks already mentioned regarding use-by dates are just as applicable to doctors as they are pots of cream.

The arrival of yet more evidence of the GP recruitment crisis (a new GPC paper) should be worrying for patients, government and CCGs – it certainly bothered me. As part of the retirement hump that will be happening over the next few years, I am ‘part of the problem’. I’m happy to continue for the time being.  But like many other experienced GPs, my use-by date is approaching fast. Store me carefully while you still can, or I’ll be off in no time. 

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