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It’s high time GPs moved out of the Dark Ages

Dr Cathy Welch

I’m glad to see there is a move out of the Dark Ages of the ‘Medical Superiority Complex’, whereby GPs are seen as the only ones permitted to be the partners, or bosses, and everyone else is a subservient employee.

OK, maybe my language there is a bit harsh, but there is a taboo, unspoken cultural undercurrent which attributes power according to perceived status in an organisation.

‘Partner’ denotes responsibility, ownership, employer, the pinnacle within the organisation. There is an etymological power imbalance between ‘Employer’ and ‘Employee’, as there is between ‘Partner’ and ‘Non-Partner’ (be they salaried medical, nursing, managerial or admin).

Whether you believe this or not, there is plenty of anthropological evidence that historical cultural role-definitions do alter peoples’ perceptions of their roles and power within an organisation, and can limit their engagement and innovation for practice improvement, no matter how ‘inclusive’ the partners are.

We must embrace the skills and capabilities of essential non-medical professionals as equals in business

My first blog for Pulse (‘Why do we not let capable colleagues verify death?’) touched on the power inequalities between doctors and nurses, reinforced by historical dogmatic misconceptions which ultimately hurt us, our professions, and patients.

A good, successful partnership is not defined by clinical skills or knowledge, what degree(s) you have, or the title on your badge, but by the non-technical skills of communication, teamwork, leadership, business acumen, and the drive and innovation to improve the system.

GPs constantly complain of spiralling workload, compounded by increasing responsibility and financial pressures as businesses, yet continue to shoulder the weight like Atlas paying his penance.

If primary care is to continue to innovate, lead the way in accessible healthcare, and build a more realistic, equitable system, then we must embrace the skills and capabilities of essential non-medical professionals as equals in business.

 Dr Cathy Welch is a GP on the Isle of Arran, Scotland