Letters, calls and emails: Coming to terms with a new age of technology

Dear Editor

I would like to add my piece to the observations of a colleague, Dr James Hill of Lanark (GP, 22 September).  

In 1977 when I qualified, computers were still something that used to land on the moon. When that went wrong the procedures needed to return to mother Earth and had to be completed manually by heroic ex-US Air Force test pilots aboard.  

At that time Dr Shipman was allegedly starting to get into his own swing of criminality when, like all of his ilk, he tested the water first and saw what he could get away with.  

Meanwhile, UK general practice was going through its renaissance. Coats of arms and silken vestments have been acquired, royal patronage assembled and slowly entrants to UK general practice became, as a result, more learned and better monitored, in the arts of ‘good minimal standard protocol lead’ general practice.  

The downside is that it takes longer to get into general practice and, when in, it takes more people to change the single general practice light bulb. But this is not just true of general practice, it is to become the fate of every clinical discipline over these years.  

It became clear, during three clinical student years at Manchester, that time was going to be short.  

I was unaware of the way the computer would take over the world and go on to facilitate the box tickers of the next generation.  

I knew that we had, at most, 20 to 30 years left, before what I knew to be general practice was to be entirely suffocated.  

Two previous generations of my family had provided family general practice from home to the people of Kirkcaldy. Chancellor Gordon Brown, whose father was also church minister there at the time describes the same sorts of callers at his own father’s door.  

But now that is all over, the late 1960s and 1970s medical generation’s time has up and come. The white hot heat of science rules.  

We have a ‘server’ crammed into the treatment room. It serves nothing supposedly recording every little transaction, so that we might get paid come Christmas. The set up keeps the little box ticker inventors immensely chuffed.  

There is endless scope to progress and adapt the little boxes, keeping them in a sinecure; it warms the world up nicely if nothing else and finally provides for landfill in five years’ time. I am told that you can get it to also write its own protocols.  

Depending on which novel they like best, any fan of George Orwell must either fall about laughing or be secretly ecstatic: probably both in fact.  

Dr Charles Brown  

Garelochhead, Argyll 

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