Why general practitioners are invaluable to the NHS

Letter to the Times by our Patron, Sir Denis Pereira Gray “Why general practitioners are invaluable to the NHS”
Published 25/11/21

Camilla Cavendish (Opinion, November 13) asks what GPs are for. The answer is to manage 86 per cent of the problems that members of the British public bring to doctors at the lowest cost of any medical consultation in the NHS. They make the most diagnoses in the NHS and adjust treatments to lifetime risks. Their teams provide the most personal preventive care, such as immunisations and cervical smears.

The two examples Cavendish provides of her children going to A&E need to be balanced against the fact that GPs provide 10 times as many consultations as all A&E departments combined, particularly in caring for “elderly bodies often suffering from multiple issues”.

She is right to emphasise the loss of GP continuity and it is strange when so much is measured in the NHS that GP continuity usually is not. However, the Health Foundation’s GP continuity programme has greatly helped to measure it.

She is right that something has to change and that change is regaining GP continuity, so that more GPs learn to be “hugely valuable … looking at the whole person”, as many do.

Recent research, including the study she mentions, has revealed 10 different benefits from GP continuity including significantly better patient satisfaction, higher quality of GP care, and even a lower mortality rate for patients.

Professor Sir Denis Pereira Gray

Former President, Royal College of General Practitioners

Former Chairman, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Exeter, UK

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