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Think you can cope without us? Try it



Right, you complete and utter scumbags, I’ve had enough. When I say ‘scumbags’, I am, of course, referring to those who constantly mock the role of the GP in the NHS, either implicitly (for example, politicians forever redefining and micromanaging our job because they think what we’ve been doing all these years is worthless) or explicitly (media commentators and headline writers who are smugly certain that we’re pointless, overpaid slackers). And by ‘had enough’, I mean, exactly that. I’m really beyond the point of giving a toss whether that teetering edifice called family medicine, which we’ve valiantly propped up for so long, finally topples into oblivion.

Those of you who doubt our value don’t have a frigging clue

Because, while letting general practice implode is deeply upsetting, like seeing your genetically encoded favourite football team go into administration (been there, done that), and might have significant personal ramifications, I’m truly beginning to think being prematurely retired/relocated/redeployed/unemployed would be worth it to give those bastard GP-bashers the NHS they deserve.

How long, do you suppose, before they’d be begging for forgiveness and for us GPs to return to the fray? I’d give them a few months, tops. And what fun we’d have, watching from the sidelines. Seeing risk-averse systems trying to cope with the uncertainty we shoulder every day. Seeing A&E swamped with trivia and inevitably missing the serious needles among the coughing, sniffling, whining haystacks. Watching pharmacists and nurses ‘manage’ chronic illness and scratch their heads whenever a punter wanders off-protocol. Seeing consultants deluged with unfiltered referrals and realising, too late, that what GPs are really, really good at is diagnosing and managing normality. And watching all of the above lead to overdiagnosis, over-referral and overtreatment, thereby driving a coach and horses through whatever NHS quantitative easing has been scribbled on the back of an envelope that particular week.

So go on. Get rid of us. Bring it on. Because those of you who doubt our value don’t have a frigging clue. Remember out-of-hours, and how well you thought you’d cope without us? Calculate the organisational, financial and reputational pain that caused you, multiply it a hundredfold and you’re not even close.

But what I’d enjoy most in a temporarily GP-free NHS is the expression on the face of one of the politicians/media pundits as they endure a totally unnecessary colonoscopy. That look will say, hang on, didn’t I have one of these last week? Who are these people behind the surgical masks, do they know my case, are they talking to the other six specialists involved, who’s co-ordinating this, has anything been omitted, what’s been duplicated, where does this end, who’s in charge, why do they talk to me like I’m a pathology rather than a person, what does ‘lesion’ mean anyway, who can I trust here and ow, that sodding hurts. In other words, an expression that asks, ‘Who cares?’

Who cares? I did. I cared so much I made a career out of it. But I’ll tell you what, I don’t care any more.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield