New BBC documentary shows value of small practices, says GP star

The star of The Real Peak Practice, a new BBC documentary about general practice, has said she hopes the film will help promote the small scale model in the face of pressures to merge into bigger practices.

Dr Louise Jordan: 'We know our patients, from cradle to grave, and we can really individualise treatment' (Photo: BBC)
Dr Louise Jordan: 'We know our patients, from cradle to grave, and we can really individualise treatment' (Photo: BBC)

The two-part documentary follows Dr Louise Jordan and her colleagues at Baslow Health Centre near Chatsworth in Derbyshire as they deal with the pressures of GP recruitment, rural isolation and an aging population. The programme will air on BBC2 in September.

The cameras, which followed the work of the practice for a year, captured Dr Jordan breaking bad news and supporting patients at the end of their lives. The GP talks about her own personal experiences and her passion for giving patients a ‘good death’.

Speaking to GPonline Dr Jordan said she wanted the public to see the importance of small, rural general practice. ‘We know our patients, from cradle to grave, and we can really individualise treatment. And if you get really big, federated practices trying to cover ludicrous hours of work, you'll lose that personalised relationship which is very reassuring for the patient and really cost effective.

'We manage risk all the time and if we know our patients we don't admit or refer half as often as you would if you didn't know someone.’

She added: ‘So, it's a plea to keep the model.’

Increasingly elderly populations

The programme, which is narrated by local actor and star of The Wire, Dominic West, was inspired, says Dr Jordan, by a conversation she had with the executive producer Sally Bowman. ‘I was very fired up about various issues’, she said.

‘The original remit was to look at the impact of NHS changes on rural practice. But it shifted during the year and it was actually looking at the bigger impacts of increasing elderly, frail, complex patients, increased demand, recruitment and retention issues, reduced workforce and all the NHS budget slashes and cuts and increased bureaucracy affecting our work. And the battle to stay ahead of all this and think clever and work in an integrated way to try to provide good care.’

Dr Jordan said the programme highlights some of the issues unique to rural practice.  

‘Our patients live so far away from hospital we provide a greater breadth of services and are much less inclined to refer patients to secondary care. So we are cost effective. We do all the contraceptive fitting, all the minor surgery we can, we do lots of things that  a lot of practices wouldn't do, in order to support the rural community.’

The film features the practice’s community nurses, who, unusually, are still based in the practice. Dr Jordan said that is another key to keeping their elderly patients in their homes.

GP recruiment problems

As well as highlighting the good work the practice does for patients, the programme touches on some of the problems all GPs face. The partners are shown discussing their struggle to recruit and workload pressures. In one scene Dr Jordan talks about patient demand for seven-day access and the effect that would have on continuity of care. 

Dr Jordan is seen in consultation with patient Lord Roy Hattersley who has had a fall, and called to the bedside of her patient and friend Deborah the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire at the end of her life. 

Executive producer Sally Bowman said: ‘Working on The Real Peak Practice has been a humbling experience. The team at Baslow Health Centre are so dedicated to their patients and determined to do their best in sometimes very difficult circumstances.

 ‘We know that 90% of patient contacts with the NHS are through their family doctor but television tends to concentrate on the dramas of A and E. Over the past year I’ve learnt that there is just as much drama behind the scenes of primary care and just as many unsung heroes too.’

The docmentary is on BBC Two at  7pm on 10 and 11 September. 

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