An alternative vision for primary care

The road map document launched this week by the RCGP is a heady mix of idealism blended with fighting spirit.

This is probably not what most GPs will expect from their august academic body. But clearly the college leadership is not happy with the route down which general practice is being driven.

The great thing about 'The Future of General Practice' is that the college does not just whinge about the problems facing primary care, but actually sets out an alternative vision - and one that builds organically on current strengths and professional values rather than tearing up the rule book and starting all over again.

The college unashamedly champions the role of the generalist and has managed to distil the manifold qualities of the general practice ethos in to one simple phrase: 'personal doctoring'. GPs are the glue in the system, providing the patient-centred, relationship-based care that is so valued by patients and so rewarding to its practitioners - but so undervalued by the policy makers.

College chairman Professor Mayur Lakhani says that this document heralds 'the comeback of personal doctoring', and we hope he is right.

The document is backed by all the main organisations in general practice but one cannot imagine it receiving a warm reception in Whitehall. Some may indeed say that it is not the job of a royal college to dabble in politics. Perhaps that's why one of the first pages of the report highlights its remit under the royal charter to act 'on all matters affecting general practice'.

But these are difficult times. It is right for the college to stand up for the profession, and for the patients whose care so many GPs now feel is being compromised by ill-advised reforms.

It offers a way ahead and it does so with passion and optimism. It offers an ambition for the future, rooted in traditional general practice.

These are sentiments that will be shared by many, both inside and outside the profession, because, as Professor Lakhani says, all of us need a good GP.

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