All of us oldies will have a fond but rather outdated memory of the family GP, an important, if distant figure, in our family life. Today’s GP will be infinitely more knowledgeable but far too busy to know much about our family life or personal circumstances. And we’re far less likely to see the same GP every time or to expect a house-call.
After a brief consultation, we’ll probably leave the surgery, suitably reassured, clutching a prescription or, for more serious matters, with a referral for further diagnosis or treatment.
According to the Royal College of GPs, 90 per cent of contacts between patients and medical staff involve a GP, with some seeing up to 60 patients in a single day. And we are told that between 15 and 30 per cent of patients treated in A&E should have gone to their GP first.
Yet GPs receive only nine per cent of the NHS budget. Worryingly, a recent survey by the RCGP highlights a growing crisis in general practice, with over 80 per cent of GPs saying they have insufficient resources to provide the high quality patient care they would like. Nearly half of those surveyed reveal they have cut back on the range of services they provide. And a national shortage of 10,000 in the number of GPs needed is likely to mean longer waiting times for appointments.
With people living longer, often with complex medical needs, is it not time to rethink the role of the GP practice so that it is able to meet the healthcare needs of today’s very different society? Let’s make GP practice more attractive for young doctors by giving them the resources they need and once again ensure that our family doctor is a central figure in our lives.