It’s a great thing when the only GP in your office who is available to see you face to face is a man aged 79 who has happily been your doctor for almost ten years!

I’ve had a scary health scare twice in the last 18 month. I fell, twice, breaking a rib on the first occasion which was dealt with quickly in the local A&E department.

The second time I was hurt, it left me with only bruises and bumps. But I felt scared. 

I remember that the onset of my mother’s Parkinson’s disease — she was at the same age I am now — was signaled by a couple of similar tumbles.

My GP was willing to see me. He had me walk around his surgery, checked for tremors and looked me in my eyes. He assured me that there was nothing wrong and that I just needed to be more careful not to trip on the pavement.

It's come to something when the only GP in your practice available to see you face-to-face is a man of 79 who, happily, also happens to have been your doctor for nearly ten years, writes JENNI MURRAY

It’s a great thing when the only GP available in your practice to see you face-to–face is a man of 79, who happily has also been your doctor for nearly ten year, writes JENNI MURRAY

I made another request for an appointment a month later, when the pain in both my lower back and hips had become unbearable. It had been a problem before, but nothing quite as severe as this.

My GP stood at top of the stairs and sat watching me struggle up to his office.

He immediately diagnosed the problem and advised me to have an MRI scan. There is always a risk of spreading to the spine from previous treatments for breast cancer. The scan has been booked for next week.

If we had just talked on Zoom or phone, I doubt that he would have noticed that my back pain was not a minor issue and that it was something that needed further investigation.

I shouldn’t feel privileged to have a GP who is caring and professional enough to do what is, after all, his job in the traditional manner — to be the first port of call in a health service, centrally funded and free at the point of delivery.

Despite the fact that I have contributed for decades to this central funding, I should not feel like my GP is doing me a favor. He seems to be something of a rare find. 

I fear he might feel that, given his age, he should be retiring. Where would that leave me and millions of patients nationwide like who want — who need — to see their GP face-to-face?

We know such appointments have rapidly declined since the start of the pandemic and it is now clear that the British Medical Association (BMA) — in effect the doctors’ union — isn’t keen on the personal touch resuming any time soon.

Twice in the past 18 months I've had a frightening health scare. I fell, twice, breaking a rib on the first occasion which was dealt with quickly in the local A&E department

In the past 18 months, I have had a scary health scare twice. I fell, twice, breaking a rib on the first occasion which was dealt with quickly in the local A&E department

That is what Dr Richard Vautrey, the Chairman of the BMA GP Committee, has stated in the Mail yesterday. 

He wrote to GPs earlier in the week, stating that they shouldn’t feel pressured to go back to the ten-minute face-to-face consultations of years past.

Treadmill, eh? And there were we thinking family doctors derived tremendous fulfilment from what they did, enjoyed being kind and caring and getting to the bottom of whatever was worrying a patient who is, by the way, a human being — a child, a woman, a man, young, old — and, in every case, desperately anxious about what may be causing their pain, discomfort and anxiety. 

This is a far cry from the tedious and inefficient use of the term ‘treadmill’.

The BMA also advises GPs to not see patients sent by hospitals or the NHS111 service, or to take on new patients. 

What should we do if our family moves to another part? 

Maybe just ‘burden’ A&E courtesy of our ‘Amazon Prime mentality’ which is what one GP in Cheshire says patients are doing when they can’t get to see their own doctor.

How quickly are the insults being delivered to patients in need.

Of course, this is all part of the BMA’s on-going opposition to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s nine-point plan — introduced following a vigorous campaign by the Mail — aimed at improving patient access to their GPs.

He seems to be perfectly reasonable in what he proposes.

Patients will be given the right to demand a face-to-face appointment with GPs and to facilitate that Mr Javid is offering a cash injection of £250 million; to slash red tape by asking the Department of Health to reform GPs’ current administrative responsibilities, including giving pharmacies and hospitals more responsibility for prescriptions and sick notes, while Covid restrictions would be relaxed.

Personal consultations will likely rise from the current 50 percent to a figure closer the 80 percent plus common before the pandemic. 

Patients who are not allowed to access their surgery may be subject to a financial penalty, or even ‘name and shame’.

Dr Vautrey describes this latest suggestion as a ‘bullies’ charter’ but it is what happens in numerous areas of private and public sector employment — a performance review. 

All of us who have a need for our GPs should know which ones are doing their jobs correctly and which aren’t.

The BMA isn’t having it. Last week, it directed all 6,600 GP practices to reject the Javid plan outright, and voted to ballot on industrial action over the administration of medical exemptions for people who cannot have the Covid vaccine (which GPs say adds to their workload) and ‘pay transparency’ which requires GPs earning more than £150,000 to declare their income.

The most disturbing thing to me is the ‘treadmill comment’ and the revelation by GPs that we thought were dedicated to caring for us, they saw us simply as an irritating pain in my neck.

Is it possible that GPs have become inhumane in how they treat the people they care for? A ballot on industrial action 

Please! That’s all we need after what we’ve been through in the past 18 months —and, frankly, how dare they?

How hard can it be to pop to the surgery day after day — or a few days a week given so many GPs have gone part-time.

Why can’t they show a little bit of understanding to the people — we taxpayers — who funded the £250,000 it took to train them to do the job they knew would bring them a great salary, a handsome pension and the respect that’s attached to the word doctor?

It is a job with a lot of responsibility. However, I don’t think the burden of being a GP today is as heavy as it was when my parents were young. A GP was always there for the community, always available to meet with patients and respond to any urgent needs.

I can still recall Dr MacKay coming to see me every fortnight when I was three years old, during a bout with measles. 

She wanted me to be kept in a darkened place with constant maternal care. In the days before vaccines, measles could be deadly.

Since the end of the old system, GPs are no longer subject to many of the same obligations. A new contract negotiated under the Blair government brought an end to out-of-hours and weekend work, no home visits — but still a handsome remuneration.

Covid has, I am certain, caused a rift between the medical professions and patients who rely on their GPs. 

But if my marvellous Dr Gibeon — 77 when it all started — could keep himself, his patients and his staff safe and do his job throughout, there is no excuse for any doctor to still be holding on to the ‘Work From Home’ or ‘Consult by Zoom’ philosophy.

You should be jabbed, just like I would tell a GP.Wear a mask and ensure that everyone else does the same. Then, get to work on the backlog of millions who require medical attention.

Last words to the ‘union,’ which is fomenting the dispute against the Government with no apparent thought of desperate patients. Stop it.

Yes, we need more doctors. However, it will take time to train them (paid by us). 

We should not be denied access to the doctors until they are ready to practice.