Are we heading the way of the dodo?

The dodo was a foolish bird that effectively ensured its own extinction. It lived in Mauritius, a place of perfect climate where ground nuts fell like manna from heaven, an easy feast for the bird with no wish to try harder.

So the dodo sat around enjoying the easy life until its wings ceased to have any use beyond a slight fanning action for the buttocks on humid days. Then, confined to ground dwelling and a diet of ground nuts alone, it was utterly vulnerable to any change in its milieu; easy pickings for any predator that might come along.

The planet has not, as a rule, been kind to flightless birds, for Darwinism values adaptability above all else. Mauritius became overrun with rats and pigs, and within 10 years the dodo breathed its last. Evolution moved forward a single blink and, behold, the modern GP replaced it.

Why are we dodos? Because we don’t prepare for the rats and pigs, even though we know they’re out there. Instead, we clip our own wings and refuse to fly. We divide our profession into first- and second-class doctors, partners and ‘salaried assistants’ — divided not by performance or ability but by status and a salary based on what someone central now feels a GP ought to be paid.

Can’t we see the danger? If we accept that’s what a doctor is worth, why are we ourselves worth any more? Then we wonder why our partnerships fall apart with no partners left to take them forward, strong and adaptable. Of course salaried docs are cheaper, but why should a good GP be cheaper?

We have the best GPs in the world but rather than use them properly we’re turning into dodos. The rats and pigs mass against us, wanting a salaried service at the mercy of a large and possibly private employer, waiting to gobble up our independence and hoover the nuts from beneath our feet; and we just help the process along.

Mauritius was a lovely place. So is this — for now.

- Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk. You can write to her at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com

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