Gina Davidson: Familiarity has bred contempt for our GPs

We demand antibiotics on a free prescription for the most minor of ailments. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

We demand antibiotics on a free prescription for the most minor of ailments. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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LIKE most GP surgeries ours has a little notice in the waiting room telling all who sit there with their public snuffles and silent pains how many appointments were missed in the last month.

The number fluctuates up and down, but it never sits at zero. How dispiriting for the doctors that their patients just can’t be bothered to turn up to share their physical aches and mental fears; even worse they can’t be bothered to pick up the phone to cancel the appointment so it could be given to someone who actually needs it.

But then that’s the thing with familiarity – it breeds contempt. And sadly, contempt is what society seems to currently hold for the practioners of the art of general medicine.

From patients, to student doctors, to government, GPs are undoubtedly taken for granted. We patients like to think they should be at our beck and call and rage when appointments are not immediately available. The pressures of the job are enticing fewer and fewer young doctors into general practice. And a £1bn cut to primary healthcare by the Scottish Government is taking its toll in funding enough GPs to deal with our increasingly elderly and expectant “worried well” population. In fact there could be a shortfall of 800 GPs across Scotland in just four years.

It’s hard now to imagine the giddy amazement of people when the NHS first launched and having a doctor on hand to take care of all your ailments – without charge – was a revolution. But even then people “didn’t like to bother” the doctor. A throwback to knowing the cost of medical care perhaps. And the value of it.

That has mostly vanished. In the way that too many people have forgotten that A&E stands for Accident and Emergency and that broken false nails or winter flu don’t count, now we bother the GP with everything from piles to pimples. It’s little wonder appointments are scarce and why GPs have little time to speak to those in real need.

We’ve begun to treat GP practices as if they’re McDonald’s drive-throughs. We demand to be seen quickly. We demand antibiotics on a free prescription. We’re like toddlers crying about a grazed knee demanding GPs’ attention for the smallest things.

We give little thought to our responsibility for our bodies and health, to ask whether it’s necessary to go in the first place, or if we could actually just drink a Lemsip and get on with our lives.

The surgery my family is registered with is fantastic. If the kids are ill they’re seen immediately – if not by a doctor then by a nurse practioner, who then calls on the GP if needed. Similarly, if if there’s a problem with us adults, a quick phone call results in a call back, a chat and a decision made as to whether we really need to be seen. It works.

Of course not every surgery is the same. Those which are under-staffed or whose registers cover deprived areas (with the well-documented healthcare problems poverty brings) are fighting a battle to give anyone appropriate GP care and waiting times for appointments can be incredibly lengthy. We should perhaps call it the “health attainment gap” and see if it means more GPs can be employed where they’re really needed.

Yes those numbers on the “appointments missed” poster will have a lot to do with the length of time some people have to wait before they can be seen. But most likely because by the time the appointment comes round they are well again.

We too have a responsibility to make sure GP surgeries work properly for everyone. That appointments are available to those who really need them - the woman who’s unsure if she’s found a lump in her breast; the middle-aged man struggling with depression; the pensioner whose arthritis is worsening; the child with asthma.

GPs have a lot on their plate. But while they may be the jack-of-all-trades of the medical profession they’re not there to be jerked around by a society which has perhaps forgotten their value.

The living nightmare of gunfire on our streets

THE conversation as we passed through Ratho Station went like this: “Mum, why are all those police outside that house?”

“I think there’s been a shooting.” All three sit bolt upright in the car. “With real guns? People have real guns? I thought only criminals had guns. Can you get guns in Scotland? Why would someone shoot at that house? Were there criminals hiding in the attic?”

Answering a question honestly is not always the best policy.

But at least there were no nightmares – I hope the people living near that house were able to sleep as easily

Too much of a ‘guid’ thing?

WHILE the debate about a BBC Scotland “Scottish Six” continues, STV are marching on with the announcement of a half-hour show to launch next year which will combine Scottish, UK and international news. The latter two subject areas will have a “Scottish perspective”.

No doubt Beeb bosses will be very interested, I’m not so sure about viewers unless a shake-up of the schedule is also on the cards.

We currently have STV news at 6pm then ITV news at 6.30pm. Another half hour of the same stuff just presented by a different face sounds like overkill. And what will happen to Emmerdale?

What a bright idea

LIGHTING, as any interior designer will tell you, is vital in creating the right atmosphere. So I’m sure the new kit installed at the Scott Monument will prove to be very illuminating as the nights draw in.