Why GPs should be recognised as specialists

Dr Katie Coleman explains why she set up a petition calling on the government to amend legislation to enable GPs to be recognised as specialists.

Dr Katie Coleman

Due to the success of modern medicine and changes in lifestyle, we are not only seeing people live longer in poor health, but we are also seeing greater complexity across the whole human lifespan. Apart from GPs, no other specialism has this breadth of knowledge to manage this.

GPs are trained to step back and take a holistic view of the whole person; assimilate the physical, emotional and social components of the individual; and generate a list of differential diagnosis, often in the space of ten minutes. They work systematically, without direct access to specialist investigations, until they come to a diagnosis for which they initiate evidence-based interventions or refer to a single-organ specialist. Indeed GPs are the generalist specialist.

It’s not only because GPs are generalist specialists that they should be included in the specialist register, it’s also the right thing to do to ensure GPs are given the recognition that they deserve - both from within the profession, and from within society. How many times has a medical student been asked what they plan to specialise in or are they ‘just’ going to be a GP?

Recruitment crisis

At a time when we need to shift more activity away from expensive hospitals and into the community, to be cared for by GPs and their teams, we need to do everything in our power to address the recruitment crisis in general practice.

Boosting the morale of GPs should, now more than ever, be seen as a priority. Recognising GPs as specialists will not only boost morale, but will put general practice on equal footing with all other specialisms.

I love being a GP. I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was nine years old, nobody in my family had been doctors before, but it just made sense. Then, when I did my general practice rotation as a medical student, I knew I had found my home.

I’ve been a GP for over twenty years. I have undertaken five years of postgraduate training, gained my certificate of completion of training and passed the membership exam of the RCGP, which consisted of a written, oral and clinical assessment – yet even with my years of experience and a fellowship of the RCGP to boot, I’m still not recognised as a specialist.

Why set up a petition

There is momentum gathering behind the belief that GPs should now be recognised as specialists. In August 2016 the RCGP and the BMA released a joint statement calling for this change to happen and to bring the UK into line with other nations across the globe. In January 2017 the GMC agreed that it would actively add GPs to the specialist register, if the Medical Act was changed by parliament.

I am passionate about my profession and I have so much respect for my GP colleagues, that I decided I could no longer sit back and do nothing. Given that the only way we can make this happen is by changing the Medical Act, I decided to set up a petition that had the potential to trigger a debate on the issue.

You can find the petition here.

I would encourage you to sign the petition and then send it to as many people as possible.

  • Dr Coleman is a GP in London

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