In Defense of GPs

Recently the media has been full of horror stories about difficulties getting a GP’s appointment.  Am I the only one who has found unexpected advantages?

Previously, if you got a recurrence of a condition, you could not book follow-up hospital appointments if more than a year has passed since your last visit. I was constantly having to arrange an appointment with my GP to satisfy NHS admin to get another referral letter.;

Living in the country, unable to drive, this involved complications arranging lifts,  Once at the GPs, I would explain that I needed a referral to a consultant whom I had seen before;  I always got this, but it wasted the GP’s time (not to mention mine, but then I am ONLY a patient),

Now, all I have to do is phone; my GP phones me back, I get the referral and I’ve only wasted 10 mins of mine (and GP’s) time.

I do wonder how much GP time is wasted in providing these follow-up referrals?  Continental friends seem to be able to arrange these directly themselves.

Coughs and Sneezes

Another advantage is no longer having to sit in a Surgery waiting room with coughs and sneezes floating around!


Apart from time-wasting (and treating us as if we were children), the main problem seems to be with GP Receptionists.  I understand they are under a lot of pressure, but the way they ask us why we want to talk to the doctor, can sound very confrontational, if not downright embarrassing.

Discussing one’s internal workings with someone who lives in a gossipy village is always going to be a problem.

The NHS is keen on sending staff on training courses – so why not send Surgery Receptionistson a Customer Services course?  The first lesson they would be taught is that when people are in pain, the least delay can cause problems, so please be sympathetic!

The other side

However, along with many others, Chris Lewis of Simpal posted comments giving a different slant : –

Practices are a hangover from the halcyon days when they were a walking distance from their patients, in buildings that the NHS did not have to buy.

The Covid Pandemic has forced sweeping and rapid changes to our lives – probably no more so than within healthcare and the NHS. It is easy to understand why patients are so upset and angry now. The ‘honeymoon’ period of sympathy for overstretched NHS and social care staff with clapping on the doorsteps, NHS discounts in many shops, free gifts and food has all but disappeared. In its wake, NHS staff are now experiencing unprecedented level of abuse on a daily basis including bomb threats, hate mail, graffiti, verbal and physical attacks.

….. 2400 doctors from a BMA survey in July 2021 showed that over a third (37%) of all doctors had experienced abuse in the preceding 3 months. Sadly 96% of these attacks are directed towards reception staff. Two-thirds of GPs (67%) said their experience of abuse, threatening behaviour, or violence had got worse in the last year, and the most common place for abuse experienced by GPs was in their consulting rooms (53%)”

This is shocking, but I think the behaviour stems from the ‘Rottweiller’ attitude shown by Receptionists.  I resent being asked for private medical symptoms to prove my need to speak to a GP;  when I phone to say I am in pain, and would like to speak to a GP as soon as possible, I like the sympathetic receptionist who says “I am sorry to hear that”, rather than one who barks out “the next appointment isn’t until …….

What can help?

1. When speaking to a Rottweiller imagine them without any clothes, or that they are a favourite pet and give them a pat on the head.  That helps defuse reactions.

2. If you get good service/care write a review, or even better still send a card or a thank you letter. You can post a review on the NHS choices website 

3.  If you need to contact your GP – think about the best way to do this. Call 999 in a severe emergency only. Phone your GP or 111 for same day appointment (NB the 111 service can now book you in with your own GP).  By trial and error I have found the quickest way to get a response is to send the Surgery an email giving a short explanation of what I want and why, 

4.  There is a GP crisis,  which has been building up for years  We are not paying enough in National Health Insurance, hence why so many now have private GP access as part of private health insurance.

And as long as Government dithers and procrastinates, it looks as if prudent patients will be looking at having ‘double cover’ for some time to come – if not for ever. 

Still, let’s hope things don’t get as bad as imagined by Matt, the Daily Telegraph cartoonist.  A recent cartoon showed a Fireman answering the phone : “A fire at the GP’s surgery?  We’re only doing online appointments at the moment”.