Why Can’t I See My GP: the past, present and future of General practice

Elissa Abi-Raad is a GP Trainee in Kent with a passion for health equality and leadership in healthcare.

If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated by the length of time it took to get a GP appointment then this book is for you.” Why Can’t I See My GP charts an ever-changing medical speciality. From the times where GPs practiced in their own homes, to the NHS crisis we face today, Cumbrian GP Dr Ellen Welch takes us on the journey of our National Health Service to show us General Practice from a different perspective, with the help of several contributors from the world of general practice and beyond.

Opening with a history of general practice and the formation of the NHS, this gives a background to the state of the profession today and provides a useful summary of major changes over the years. Health policy guru Roy Lilley contributes here, describing his first experience of the new NHS as a sick child. Chapter 2 covers how the role has changed, with GPs from around the UK sharing their insights, and this leads onto chapter 3 and the impact of the pandemic.

We have all seen the personal and professional attacks on GPs during the COVID pandemic. In the book we hear from people directly impacted by this abuse. The widower of Dr Gail Milligan, Chris, who lost his wife to suicide speaks about his experience. We also hear from Dr Aman Amir whose Merseyside practice was daubed in racist graffiti and subject to an arson attack. These events opened the floodgates for GPs to raise the alarm about the excruciating amount of workload that they are faced with, and chapter 4 delves into the statistics and numbers which show the enormity of the problem.

Years of GP-bashing and underfunding have resulted in a recruitment and retention crisis. Young doctors do not want to be GPs, middle aged GPs are burnt out, and our senior GPs cannot wait to retire and leave. We cannot blame any of them. It is such a toxic environment where patients are unhappy with you, other specialists are dumping their work on you, while you are trying your best to stay afloat.

Politicians that comes around promise increases in the number of GPs and fail to deliver on their promise. We now have 2165 fewer full time GPs compared to September 2015, and a refusal from our leaders to acknowledge that pay and working conditions need to be fixed if they want to see the NHS come out of the other side. Junior doctors are striking, Consultants are striking, and GPs are likely to follow. We have less doctors and more patients, day by day, year by year. This was predictable, negotiable, reversible but alas, instead of focusing on the crisis at hand, the government decided to push forward allied healthcare staff and in particular physician-associates.

Whilst writing this book Dr Welch co-chaired DAUK (The Doctors Association UK) which is a volunteer-led organisation created by doctors for doctors that aims to support, guide and fight for our NHS doctors as well as for the safety of our patients. The organisation along with others are now raising immense patient safety concerns around the unregulated role with minimal training requirements.

Doctors generally want the best for their patients, that is why they got into medicine. Throughout the book, hopefully the public can see how much GPs actually care, how they try their best to deliver, often at the cost of their own sanity and family life.

The book will make you reflect on how dehumanising doctors and putting needless pressures on them can drive one of the world’s best healthcare models into the ground. GPs are the cornerstone of our NHS, and without them, the wider NHS does not stand a chance. That is why the DAUK has been campaigning tirelessly to make sure our NHS is revived and able to continue providing safe and life saving healthcare to everyone regardless of their background. The royalties for this book have been donated to DAUK and the organisation sent a copy to every MP in the UK and every ICB (Integrated Care Board) chair, so it can hopefully offer a much needed perspective and be the saving grace our NHS needs.

Featured book: Ellen Welch, Why Can’t I See My GP: the past, present and future of General practice, ISBN 978-1915279460 £16.99

Declaration of interest: Elissa Abi-Raad is on the executive team of the Doctors’ Association UK

Photo by Super Straho on Unsplash

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