Letters: Well-intentioned MPs should leave GPs alone

Once again in the form of Baroness Barbara Young we see a well-intentioned politician coming on strong about the need for GPs to provide the best possible treatment for their patients (GP, 12 December). Could anyone object to that?

Everyone knows what GPs do, don't they? Everyone sees GPs in their surgeries although perhaps not quite as easily as they would like.

MPs are very unusual. There are only about 650 of them. Why do they imagine that their experience of general practice is similar to that of other patients?

Politicians don't know what GPs do, they only think they do. They do know better than to attempt to reform mental health care, but they all believe they know how to improve general practice.

NICE deals with problems, but GPs deal with patients and almost no patients present with a clear-cut problem.

When a problem is presented it is almost never alone.

Self-limiting illness can largely be left alone. Chronic illness can be managed by protocols.

Interwoven in the mix is a thread of serious illness which must be discerned and dealt with as quickly as possible as delayed diagnosis can lead to death and disability.

Any fool with a medical background can diagnose a full-blown syndrome when it presents but GPs usually see these at an early and incomplete stage. Effective triage is a vital GP skill, which must be acquired through experience as well as learnt.

GPs are better at delivering preventive care than any other agency. This is enshrined in our quality framework data and immunisation figures.

Every system must have a safety net which cuts in when all else fails. Guess what, in the NHS it's general practice.

We could do better. With more resources and support and access to investigative services we could be more complete primary care physicians dealing with an even greater fraction of the total health burden.

Perhaps we might ask politicians to look before they leap and not embark on a crusade to reform general practice based on their own individual experience of it as a patient.

Dr Lewis Miller, Belfast.

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