An Endangered Species

Lets pinch some ideas from a success story

The excellent and much needed Resilient GP blog  ( hit the mainstream recently with a list of the wackiest and craziest reasons patients came to see GP’s. It was a funny list and probably quite shocking to those unaccustomed to life in primary care. To me, it read a bit like a Buzzfeed list- a series of unrelated extremes designed to pass a few minutes in between checking email and Facebook.

But it exposed the big grey elephant in every consulting room, GP’s see a lot of patients who would be better seen by someone else.

That someone else might be a pharmacist, a practice nurse, their grandmother or a church elder. We are an expensive resource. Every 10 minute appointment adds up and means that people who could benefit from our skill set are left on the phone, left outside, and left with no option but to go to A+E.

The Resilient GP blog raised the issue but it didn’t help advance things. I know it wasn’t the intention, but it felt like it was raising a barrier between patients and GP’s, a them versus us situation. To maintain a free at the point of care health system, we have to be on the same side. How can we put this to people without shaming, blaming and making it seem like we are the overpaid wannabe Rory Mcllorys the media paints us to be?

I think we need to look to the world of conservation. Hello WWF, The Green Party and Bags for Life.

Twenty years ago, barely anyone recycled. Now, everyone has the opportunity to make a difference with the plethora of bins, bags and collections for every imaginable recyclable. People everywhere have changed the way they organise their kitchen, the way they collect and pack their shopping , the way they purchase things. It’s fantastic to see and it’s embedding itself into our culture and our daily lives.

This is despite our individual efforts being less than a drop in the ocean. A pensioner in Shetland reusing a bag for life does nothing for the bigger picture if a new factory is built in China. If a man in London rinses out a milk bottle and recycles it, it means nothing if an acre of rainforest is felled in the same time. But they still do it, it feels good to be working towards something larger than ourselves, something to pass on to the next generation.

We need to harness this feeling for our NHS. Could we say the NHS as we know it is endangered and may well die out in our lifetime?

I think the message we need to send out is that everyone needs to do their little bit to save our NHS. Less us versus them, less blaming and laughing. Similar to conservation, you won’t be able to see or feel the effects, but it all helps and if enough people do it, we can pass it on to the next generation.

For example, patients could be encouraged to remember to order repeat scripts before bank holidays, workplaces could stop insisting on sick certificates for illnesses less than seven days and hospital doctors could write out sick certificates for patients they have seen. Just a few examples off the top of my head but all of these would enable more patients to be seen by their GP’s. I’m sure there are loads of things patients and hospital docs feel we as GP’s could do differently as well to ease demand. It’s about starting the conversation and realising we all want the same thing.

Don’t let the NHS be a dodo!

Just an idea.

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