Invitation to Matthew Parris; & the response

Dear Matthew,

I noticed consternation from GPs on Twitter this morning in connection to a comment that GPs were little more than glorified receptionists. I assumed they were overreacting. I get a podcast of your Great Lives programme and enjoy it. You come across as an intelligent, curious, and nuanced man.

Unable to view the offending piece online, I actually bought the print copy of today’s Times, and have read your article. I can see why they were annoyed.

I work as a GP in Tower Hamlets; I’ve worked in general practice for almost 25 years. It is quite clear to me that good GPs (and their practice teams) are a national treasure. Yes, we are able to keep up with changes in the science and the evidence. Indeed, we are the last of the generalists.

I am quite confident that what we do is important and irreplaceable, so I do not feel threatened by your piece. But it is quite wrong on a number of counts. I will trust that you wrote it in good faith.

I send you a good-natured invitation and challenge: come and shadow me for a day, watch what I do and what my colleagues do; meet some patients, ask them what they think. Meet our receptionists: ask them if they can do my job.

Best wishes,


The Tredegar Practice
35 St Stephens Road
E3 5JD


Saturday 23 June 2012

I sent the above as an email to The Times and posted a hardcopy to Matthew Parris, and left a message on an answerphone at The Times. I received an email from his PA, asking me to forward her a copy of the email.

This is the PA’s reply:

“I shall see that he gets it on his return. He is unlikely to take up your offer to shadow you because there are not enough hours in a day when he is in  London.”

And my reply to the PA:

“I quite understand Matthew is a busy man. Please pass on my suggestion that in future if he decides to write about a given topic that he take time in advance to check how things actually work on the ground. Otherwise he will lose the respect of those he misrepresents.”


For a summary and few excerpts from Matthew Parris’ Opinion piece, Click Here


Tuesday 3 July 2012

I am pleased to say that Matthew Parris has written, accepting the invitation to visit us in Bow. I am thankful for this. All I ask is that people investigate with curiosity, reflect, and then judge. 


20 October 2012

I am writing up my year’s work in preparation for my annual appraisal. I am including this letter in my portfolio. I should add that Matthew Parris did visit us for a rather full day in July. He was a gentleman; he watched and listened carefully. He wrote two subsequent articles, and was scrupulous in disguising where he had been.

I may write something at a later date about this.

3 Responses to Invitation to Matthew Parris; & the response

  1. Alastair Kerr says:

    I seem to remember years ago Matthew (temporarily) lived on a low income, possibly in Newcastle to prove a point so he may well take you up on it. I am a GP in West Lothian (30 years) and refer on average about 2 patients a day out of 40. Yesterday I saw 2 patients operated on privately with no follow-up whom I had to treat urgently so he is in a dreamworld if he thinks NHS or private hospitals follow things through adequately. I guess he felt being an MP was fairly useless hence he gave it up. Being a columnist is clearly a step up to a vital occupation, albeit not paid for by the state. Whilst I generally like his columns, this one I will take with a large grain of salt. I hope his own GP reads the article…and has a sense of humour.

    Alastair Kerr, West Lothian

  2. Rachel Pearce says:

    It occurs to me that Mr Parris’s (Derbyshire) GP and mine are probably members of the same practice. I have found them to be a very efficient and responsive team, and I have twice had cause to be grateful for prompt and appropriate referrals. I have been boycotting Murdoch since “Gotcha”, so I don’t know exactly what he said.

  3. jill says:

    I am a consultant psychiatrist working for the NHS in a deprived area of London. Without GP referrals I am concerned that NHS psychiatric clinics would be overwhelmed with visits from the ‘worried well’ and people with situational difficulties. We would be unable to focus our efforts treating those with severe and enduring mental health problems. GPs, alongside primary care psychologists, manage the bulk of mental health disorders allowing secondary care psychiatry to focus on managing more complex cases. If there weren’t GPs managing the bulk of psychiatric disorders, many more psychiatrists would need to be trained and employed.
    Psychiatric treatment in primary care offers patients the ability to access treatment without the stigma a visit to a psychiatrist may engender.
    It is also worth mentioning that often patients with severe mental illnesses may lack insight into their illness, and may present to the GP with other symptoms. It is only with careful assessment and subsequent referral from GPs that these patients get seen by psychiatrists and offered appropriate treatment.

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