But an attempt to denigrate GPs by certain sections of the media on the basis of a fraction of bad examples picked up from the CQC's press release need rebutting in the strongest way.
The anecdotes of poor practice must not be used to distort the reality. General practice in the UK is the ‘jewel in the crown of the NHS’, a benchmark against which all other countries' primary care services are measured. Other countries envy our system, and aspire to be as good.
Following the CQC report, the headlines in the media revealed its underlying prejudices with the words it uses, and the issues it is focusing on. GPs will, once again, witness a section of press and some elements who wish to undermine general practice in the UK looking for errors and poor performance. This is yet another activity to demotivate GPs.
More than 99% of GPs have been delivering top quality patient care for decades, saving thousands of patients each year from having a stroke, heart attack, or other serious health problems. We keep patients out of hospital and save the NHS millions. The evidence is clear that countries where the health systems are more oriented to primary care achieve better levels of health, higher life expectancy, higher satisfaction with healthcare among their populations, and lower costs and medication use.
For 90% of the British population, the NHS begins and finishes at the GP surgery. There are 250 million consultations with GPs in the UK every year, an average of between four and five visits to the doctor for everyone. Our system of general practice offers an amazingly cost-effective service with a quality of care that is second to none.
British GPs are not Luddites, and have adapted to changes benefiting patients. The intensity and complexity of GP work has changed according to the needs of patients. It is now GPs, and not hospitals, who organise the care of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and the degenerative conditions that increasingly afflict an ageing population, often having to act as first port of call to most nursing and care homes.
The NHS is undergoing some significant and worrying changes that demonstrate a lack of value placed on the quality of general practice. The government appears to be determined to move from traditional GP partnerships to one where the private sector would play a much greater part in the future structure and running of general practice.
The current changes being imposed across NHS primary care are leading to the meltdown and eventual destruction of general practice in this country.
The changes are leading to higher costs and greater fragmentation of care. Patients will find that they get bits of care here, and other bits there, and that no one is in charge of the whole.
Continuity of care is being eroded so fast that I fear that the very concept of a truly generalist service may be permanently lost within a few years.
As GPs we will, at all times, try to ensure the highest quality care for our patients regardless of government whim, however, the current healthcare policies threaten the very existence of the personal general practice that our patients value and deserve.
In my personal view that is what is wrong with marketised healthcare and that needs reversing.
Initiatives to undermine the traditional general practice would be a disaster for patients and profession alike.