‘I’ve waited three weeks for this appointment.’
Here we go. I drag my gaze from computer screen to patient, expecting to see the usual look of entitled fury prefixing a list of demands, all inappropriate. But no. How odd. Something’s different. And that something is that he looks sympathetic, sorry, as if he doesn’t want to give me a fat lip, but a cuddle. A bit weird, admittedly, in a beefy, tattooed, shaven-headed bloke with no discernible neck, but, hey it’s the thought and all that.
The message that general practice is on the brink of extinction is finally getting through
‘I’m not complaining,’ he explains. ‘I’ve heard how you GPs are under the cosh. It’s worth waiting to see my own doc, though. I really don’t know how you guys cope with it all.’
Wow. After about a minute, I realise I haven’t spoken, because my jaw has dropped so far that I’m aphasic. Maybe just as well, because if I had been able to talk I might have pointed out the irony of, on the one hand, his insight into GP workload and, on the other, the fact that he has come about a sore throat. But why spoil a nice moment?
He’s not the only one coming in with bouquets rather than brickbats. In recent weeks, loads of patients have swapped the usual opening gambit moan about lack of appointments, parking spaces, telephone access or antibiotics to an expression of sympathy at the GP’s plight.
So what this means is that, as far as the public is concerned, the message that general practice is on the brink of extinction is finally getting through. If only secondary care was as well informed.
Despite a large section of the much-trumpeted Forward View explaining how hos-docs would no longer be able to dump on primary care – with immediate effect – I have spent much of my time complying with or fending off (depending on my level of stroppiness) massive secondary care dumps.
Okay, yes, I’m expecting too much too soon. But do any of us really believe that the requests to chase up this MSU, treat that vaginal swab, refer for the other lung nodule, follow up these bloods, re-refer that DNA, order the other MRI scan, arrange this echocardiogram, review that patient and do the other whimsical tasks the men in white coats dream up, to just give you today’s quotient, are going to stop?
They only will when someone enlightens our secondary care colleagues that nowhere in the Forward View does it say anything about GPs being default, unpaid community housemen. The truth is, none of them have even heard of this latest NHS manifesto, let alone read it. That’s why they continue to have the Rear View, in the sense that they’re happy to continue kicking the GP’s arse to do their work for them.
So, Mr Hunt, please send every hospital doctor a glossy, remixed and very simplified version of the Forward View. Something along the lines of: ‘This is the boss speaking, now leave those poor GPs the f**k alone.’
In the meantime, I’ll console myself with the sympathies of an increasingly enlightened public. Though I’ll skip the cuddle, thanks.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield