Viewpoint: Dr Maureen Baker: Why I am infuriated when GPs are called 'overpaid' and 'whingeing'

Sometimes it's important to take a minute to think about why we do what we do. Almost without exception, it always comes back to one thing; our patients - more specifically how we can provide them with the best possible primary care, writes RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker.

Dr Baker: 'Patients are our driving force and the reason we do what we do.' (Photo: RCGP)
Dr Baker: 'Patients are our driving force and the reason we do what we do.' (Photo: RCGP)

We are – as we have been as long as I can remember – the most trusted professionals in the NHS. The latest GP patient survey from December found that 92% of patients surveyed have confidence and trust in their GP with 86% rating their surgery as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ good.

It is testament to the high regard that general practice is held by our patients that the increasing pressures that GP teams are under – highlighted through the RCGP’s Put patients first campaign - have been given such a high media profile.

This is why it was so infuriating last week to read Alice Thomson’s scathing attack on GPs in The Times as ‘overpaid’ and ‘whingeing’ and her criticism of our calls for general practice to receive 11% of the overall NHS budget by 2017.

This is simply not safe for patient care

She told us that we should be focussing our efforts on adapting to increasing demand, and relieving pressure on other parts of the NHS - namely A&E – instead of asking for more resource. Just how exactly we can do either of these things – and continue to guarantee excellent care to our patients – without the resources that we are demanding, is beyond me.

General practice teams make 90% of NHS patient contacts for just 8.39% of the overall NHS budget – down from 10.33% a decade ago – and research by Deloitte predicts that this share will fall to just 7.29% by 2017/18, with disastrous consequences for our patients.

This is simply not safe for patient care, especially as GPs struggle to meet the increasing demand of our growing and ageing population, who as I’m sure you have experienced are increasingly presenting with multiple and chronic conditions.

I urge you all to ask your patients to sign our petition

Patients agree and this is why we are so thrilled to be running Put patients first with our campaign partners, the National Association for Patient Participation. We are particularly grateful to honorary president and chairman Dr Patricia Wilkie for her incredible support of our calls.

It is simple. If we have more resources, we can do more for our patients and we can provide more care in the community, away from hospitals. Everyone benefits.

I urge you all to ask your patients to sign our petition, which along with a new set of posters will be arriving at every GP surgery in the UK shortly. I also urge you to engage with your practice’s patient participation group, if you have one. This is an excellent way of keeping abreast of the issues, clinical and otherwise, that really matter.

Patients are, after all our driving force and the reason we do what we do.

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