Are GPs too lazy?

02/06/2013

Two evenings ago, when I arrived home at 9pm for supper, my daughter, with a smile on her face, pointed me to the front cover of the current edition of The Week which asks Are GPs too lazy?’ She and her brother were always clear that they were not going to study medicine because they thought their parents, both GPs, worked too hard.

I wish journalists were more precise in their use of language. Why not ask, ‘Are some GPs too lazy?’ Why not find out what it is like for a significant number of GPs?

It is 9am on Sunday morning and I am at work, trying to catch up on my mountain of work. I arrive at work at 7am weekdays, and leave on an early night at 8, other nights at 9. And I will not have finished. I work at least one day of every weekend. It is unsustainable. I will be 60 years old in 3 weeks. In our practice we try to provide good quality, evidence-based medicine in a respectful and compassionate way. But it is a real struggle. I would like to work on until I am 65. I have a sense of commitment to our population, I am aware that the role that I play is an important one.

Ultimately, there is a real problem with capacity. The demand outstrips the resources.

We have 10 minute consultations. Many of our patients require 15 minutes, some longer. The job I do now is far more complex than it was 15 years ago, it requires more time.

Yes, it is a bit of a slog for some to get appointments at times that suit their schedules. I am not happy about that.

The politicians and Department of Health set us Herculean tasks which undermine quality.

Politicians, journalists, citizens: be careful, if you blame us and ‘shame’ us in a mindless way, a significant number of us will just give up, and leave you to get on with it on your own. Let Jeremy Hunt do it; let the Department of Health spokesperson do it; let Janet Street-Porter do it.

If you want a better system, let people who understand the complexity of primary care design it and cost it. Then resource it.