However, Professor Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the RCGP, points out that these problems are 'deep seated and complex' rather than the fault of GPs.
He continues: 'GP access surveys and our own conversations with patients show high levels of patient satisfaction and year on year improvements. Patients repeatedly tell us that general practice is the most successful and responsive part of the NHS.
'There clearly is a disconnect between the negative portrayal of GPs and the high regard in which GPs are held by patients. It is time to acknowledge the value of general practice and the unique, but largely ignored, contribution of GPs in holding the NHS together.
'GP practices have been the enduring feature of the NHS in endless reorganisations and have provided much needed stability. Over 90 per cent of healthcare problems are dealt with in primary care with over a million consultations taking place on an average working day, but this is seldom acknowledged.'
Professor Lakhani warned that the reality of a health service without general practice was very disturbing.
'One of the hidden values of general practice is our role as a safety net for patients, the old, the vulnerable, people with complex and multiple diseases', he said.
'We never discharge patients but carry on providing lifelong care for generations. As well as being clinical experts, today's GPs are trainers, teachers, researchers, innovators at the forefront of patient care and specialists in the individual patient - yet most of this work goes largely unnoticed or is overlooked.
'We are not saying everything is perfect or that there is no room for improvement. GPs continue to make innovations and improve services over and above contractual requirements.
'It is time to raise the level of debate and for decision makers to start playing up the strengths of general practice.'
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