Media attacks on GPs must stop, says GPC chairman

Outgoing GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman has said he would rather tell people he is a 'trainee mortician' than a GP because of the current media backlash against the profession.

Dr Laurence Buckman: attacks on GPs are wearing thin
Dr Laurence Buckman: attacks on GPs are wearing thin

Dr Laurence Buckman said his postbag has ‘swollen substantially’ because GPs are ‘very upset at constantly being the scapegoat of whatever it is’.

‘At the moment we are the scapegoats for A&E,’ he told a Westminster Health Forum event on 18 June. ‘Most people I know who go to A&E haven’t tried to see their GP.'

Dr Buckman, a north London single-hander who is stepping down as GPC chairman next month, warned that increasing GP access would be difficult because the profession is already working ‘at least 50 hours a week’.

He said that he is not proud that patients usually have to wait three weeks to get routine appointments to see him.

‘The next thing if you can’t provide access is to discover that everybody hates you,’ he said.

‘In polite society when I go to dinner parties I will say I am a trainee mortician. Most GPs are now thoroughly fed up at being called fat cat rich bastards by the media.

‘For politicians it is nice to have a pop at GPs because as individuals GPs don’t fight back. But it is getting a bit weary now.

‘The novelty of being a GP and being slagged off by everybody is wearing a bit thin.’

He warned that a rise in GP workload and a media backlash against the profession will lead to a rise in early retirements.

‘We have a third of GPs over the age of 50. A lot of them are going to go and a lot of them are going prematurely.

‘People won’t want to join a profession that is perceived as a social pariah. People will not want to join a profession where they are typically working at least 50 hours a week.

‘We are seeing a haemorrhage of expertise leaving and CCGs are very worried about that, because they are casting around for who will be the next generation of CCG leaders.’

A report on the government’s pension plans, this month, called for more to be done to halt early retirements in the NHS, to prevent staff shortages.

‘GPs still want to do the best by their patients,’ Dr Buckman said. ‘That is an obsession. The reason why I am a GP is I want to be loved - 2,500 people love me. I get up in the morning and that is the most magnificent feeling. No amount of money, punishment, Daily Mail hate, none of that fobs off 2,500 people coming to have a cup of tea with me. It’s brilliant.’

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