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Tempting fresh meat onto the general practice BBQ

As a GP trainer, I’ve been wondering recently how we can persuade more junior doctors to enter general practice. Let’s leave aside for a moment whether such an action could be deemed ethical, and think about how the hell we actually do it. I suggested a couple of months ago that a major upgrade in pay and conditions à la 2004 was our best bet, so like everyone else I found myself awaiting the unveiling of Jeremy Hunt’s package with bated breath, and like everyone else, my reaction has been… meh.

Come and be a GP – a job that’s so likely to make you mentally unwell that we’ve had to hardwire treatment into your contract!

I’ve been reading up on the GP Forward View and I’m still none the wiser. It seems like there’s some kind of extra money being promised, but it’s hard to pin down exactly when it starts benefitting individual GPs. When Pulse asked Simon Stevens directly whether we could expect a pay rise he was cagier than London Zoo. You hear billions being bandied about but, as the redoubtable cynics at Resilient GP have pointed out, the promised investment won’t even get us back to historic levels of funding. It’s a bit like when the surgeons asked John Wayne Bobbitt if he wanted them to sew his willy back on; obviously he’s going to say yes, but no-one should pretend he’ll end up better off than he was to start with.

I realise I’m at risk of sounding like Morrie the wig salesman from Goodfellas here. It’s not all about the money, after all. There is even some good news. I’m pleased about the proposed ban on me being asked to write referrals on behalf of secondary care. Any acknowledgement that GP time is not a bottomless resource to be tapped at will by our hospital colleagues is fine by me, though it remains to be seen whether it actually works in practice. And the long overdue investment in mental health support for GPs is to be welcomed, though it’s hardly a great selling point for the profession: ‘Hey kids! Come and be a GP – a job that’s so likely to make you mentally unwell that we’ve had to hardwire treatment into your contract!’

So I’m not sure if there’s anything here to entice fresh meat into general practice. Our only hope is that the DH’s current crusade against junior doctors will make the hospital frying pan so awful that a jump into the primary care fire starts to look appealing. See you in five years folks!

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson