Professor Clare Gerada: Why GPs are the saviours of the NHS

I am proud that GPs continue to be the most trusted healthcare professionals in the NHS. Proud that I can fight the corner of GPs and promote the excellent care we provide for our patients.Why GPs are the saviours of the NHS.

It is this pride that gets me through the toughest times, and the past few weeks have been a prime example, with GPs being confronted day after day by negative stories, portraying us as lazy and uncaring, and attributing the current pressures on A&E to poor GP out-of-hours services.

I cannot sit back and allow my profession to be vilified and held responsible for the problems in A&E. There are numerous reasons why our A&E colleagues are under pressure - but GPs are not one of them.

Neither is there any evidence to suggest that access to GP out-of-hours services is poor.

While the media spotlight is trained on the crisis in emergency departments, we are missing the crisis in general practice.

General practice is becoming increasingly challenging and complicated. GPs have seen consultation rates explode in recent years and are now facing ballooning workloads, with record hours being worked in surgeries. We routinely have up to 60 patient contacts on a daily basis, whereas even 10 years ago this would have been exceptional.

A year of GP care for one patient costs £100 to £150, equivalent to one or two attendances at the local emergency department and less than one 999 ambulance call-out.

We want to do more for our patients - we want to provide the excellence and continuity of care that our patients need and deserve. But with constantly increasing responsibilities and ever decreasing resources, this is not possible.

We still deal with 90% of all NHS work - with only 9% of NHS funding. If current trends continue, spending in general practice will be down by £200m in the next three years.

We need more GPs, enhanced training and more time with our patients. By investing in general practice, we can solve a lot of the problems that are currently besetting the NHS. Let's all start sticking up for GPs and telling the real story: that we are the saviours of the NHS, not the scourge.

  • Professor Gerada is a GP in London.

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