GP-bashing threatens trust in the profession

Negative newspaper coverage of GP pay may start to erode public trust in the profession, researchers have warned.

Negative media headlines about GPs' salaries could be damaging the industry's reputation
Negative media headlines about GPs' salaries could be damaging the industry's reputation

University of Leeds researchers studied trends in five newspapers: The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sun and The Times.

They found that after the introduction of the new GMS contract in 2004, there was a 'sharp rise' in stories related to GPs'

salaries, from less than 20 in 2004 to 100 in 2007.

Newspaper coverage of GPs also became 'unfavourable', the researchers said. Reporting shifted from recognition of demanding working conditions and relatively poor rewards to concerns about 'unfairly excessive income and poor use of public money'.

The researchers warned that continued negative coverage of GP pay could start to erode public trust in the profession.

They said, although public trust in GPs has overall remained fairly robust to media criticism, this cannot be taken for granted, particularly in an era of intensified public scrutiny.

GP-authored articles 'mitigated' negative reporting and represented 'a potential channel to broaden media debate to quality and equity as opposed to costs alone', they said.

But GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said this approach 'doesn't work'. 'Of course GPs should reply to negative articles ... but there comes a point when you can't win with these people (newspaper editors),' he said.

Dr Buckman added that some GPs were 'deeply offended' by some of the 'rabid' coverage in the national press. 'It is very distressing to read that you are wicked, corrupt and bad at your job,' he said.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPC, said patients still have a high level of trust in GPs. 'Surveys of the popularity of professions continually shows GPs coming out at the top,' he said. 'I think patients can see through media coverage.'

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