The End of General Practice

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

General practice in Britain has changed enormously in the last couple of decades.

When I was a GP my partners and I provided patients with a 24 hour service for 365 days a year. Patients could telephone every hour of the day and expect to be visited at home whenever they were ill or worried.

Today, thanks to legislation brought in by the European Union, GPs work librarian hours.

They are available only during office hours (with an hour off for lunch) on Mondays to Fridays and they work fewer than 40 hours a week. A third of the GPs working week is spent on paperwork. Itís not surprising that patients get a pitiful service. And itís not surprising that patients have to wait weeks to be seen Ė when all patients should be seen on the day they want to be seen.

Not surprisingly, this new way of working means that GPs can no longer expect to be treated with the same respect as before. They donít have the same status or authority. Patients know that if they have an urgent problem at night, at weekends or on bank holidays they will have to call an ambulance and rely on the local casualty department. Moreover, patients know that they can see a consultant without a letter of introduction from a GP. Family doctors are no longer the gatekeepers to the hospital service.

It is, I suspect, this change in the way GPs are perceived which explains why it is so often reported that receptionists have become unbearably snooty.

Too often receptionists do not seem to understand that every patient who visits a GPís surgery is nervous, even frightened.

When receptionists are uncaring and unsympathetic, it is the doctors who must be blamed.

And GPs must also be blamed for hiring health care assistants to perform medical duties.

I am told there are practices in the UK where untrained assistants are allowed to give injections and take blood samples. These untrained individuals are doubtless cheap but they arenít very good at these tasks because they havenít been properly trained.

It seems that some highly paid senior GPs (annual incomes far in excess of £100,000 are commonplace) do very little for their money.

The growth of robot/computer doctors and distance prescribing by GPs working on the internet means that the days of the traditional GP are limited.

I used to think that GPs would survive all technological changes.

But I now suspect that there wonít be any local GP practices in ten yearsí time.

The end of the GP is nigh.

Copyright Vernon Coleman April 2019

Vernon Colemanís international bestsellers How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You and Colemanís Laws are both available on Amazon as eBooks and as paperbacks.