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General practice: do you buy it?



There are some things it is hard to imagine would take off if they didn’t already exist.

Take the car for example. Imagine there was no such thing as the private car and then somebody developed one and wanted to market it to the public today: “This metal box on wheels will cost you many thousands of pounds and will start to depreciate from the minute you drive it out of the showroom. It will then cost you about a month’s salary every year to tax, insure, fuel and maintain.

“After all of this, you will be able to sit in your polluting box and move through the centre of cities at walking pace, breathing in the fumes of the box in front of you.”

I think even Saatchi & Saatchi might have their work cut out selling that to Joe Public.

Similarly general practice, in its current form, would be a hard sell if it did not already exist: “Now, Doctor, would you like to use your own money to set up a business with some other doctors you barely know? You will have to sort out some premises for which we will reimburse your rent as we see fit. You will have to employ and pay your own staff out of your own pocket and your income will be reducing year on year.

“The person who decides what we pay you and how you are to run your surgery will have no medical qualifications of any sort and will never have worked a single day in a health care environment. Nevertheless they will be able to change the rules about how you must work, whenever they feel like it and without consulting you.”

Why is there a recruitment problem in general practice, I wonder?

There is hope though. While the NHS is being sold off bit by bit to the private sector as we speak, it still seems to me that the current model of general practice can’t be very attractive to some slick, aggressive, profit-hungry American-owned outfit looking to gobble up chunks of the health service.

What’s more, I glance out into our waiting room I see the full range of humanity seated there. Every variety of the unwashed, lice-ridden, eczematous, obese and boil-covered sit in our surgery cross-infecting each other every day.

But this makes me smile: I can’t see any of them fitting on a corporate spreadsheet either.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London