Our story about a third of practices having to interrupt their routine appointments in the last 12 months received extensive media coverage. I found the broader media response interesting.
There was, of course, much lament about the long waits for patients (although they are diminishing). But I also noticed a lot of sympathy for GPs on this. Even the Daily Mail had a front page it was, in a way, blaming the state of general practice on the lack of GPs rather than GPs being hardworking golfers.
My team and I were invited to appear on the radio to provide commentary. Because it was a relatively generic story about the state of GP, it helped us focus on the messages we should be sending from Pulse and about GP as a whole.
Whether we like it or not, getting sympathetic listening from the wider media is important. And I don’t think the profession has always done that. I’m not saying these posts are guaranteed to turn the tide of public opinion, but I do think they can help get more sympathetic press:
Appointments up, number of GPs down: I’ve written about this in the past, but it’s the mantra the profession needs to recite whenever the media starts discussing the crisis in GP. It’s simple math – of course patients will wait longer, and that’s the fault of the government, not the GPs.
Focus on the effect of exhausted GPs on patients: It’s completely unfair, but the media will talk more about GP burnout if we insist on what it means for patients – which we have done with our workload surveys. ‘Your safety is at risk as GPs work 13 hour days’ will make headlines; “General practitioners are exhausted because of the 13-hour days” will not make as much noise.
GPs are as frustrated as patients: I think this is probably not emphasized enough. I think it has been clearly established that GPs are overworked and burnt out. But on top of that, the problem of long waits and deteriorating results is felt even more by GPs, who are unable to provide the level of care they know they are capable of and – remember – are themselves patients and relatives of patients.
Primary and secondary care problems have the same root cause: Similarly, the tension within the medical profession needs to be addressed. Primary care is under stress and secondary care is under stress. One is not the cause of the other – they have the same root cause, namely the underfunding of health services at a time of greater demand, and the even worse underfunding of services supports that help prevent health problems, such as social care, housing and public health. services. General practitioners blaming specialists and vice versa does not help anyone.
The unfair truth is that GPs (like teachers, social workers, civil servants) are an easy punching bag. But aligning their interests with those of the wider population – of which they are a part – may even give the profession a fair hearing, which would be a refreshing change.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor-in-chief of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at [email protected]