Are GPs better value than hamsters?

Hamster More expensive than primary care

A popular anecdote among doctors is that it costs more to insure a hamster than it does to pay for a year of GP care.

They have a point. GP surgeries get just over £150 per patient per year.

With the average patient seeing their doctor five times a year that works out at £30 a visit.

It is why many other nations look at the NHS's system of general practice with envy.

But the question being asked now is whether GPs are being squeezed too much.

That may seem strange to ask of a profession where most GPs who are partners in a practice earn in excess of £100,000 a year.

But news that investment in general practice has fallen by £400m in real terms over the past three years warrants further investigation.

It is worth noting that the figures - highlighted by the Royal College of GPs but based on official data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre - have not been disputed by the government.

That in itself is unusual in a system as complex as the NHS where statistics can be cherry picked to prove almost any point.

But what does this mean in practice?

Less time with patients

Talking to GPs at the RCGP's annual conference it is clear the concerns are real.

Start Quote

My concern is that I won't get to know the patients like he did.”

End Quote Dr Stuart Sutton East London GP

Many cited the increased demands being placed on them - the number of GP consultations has risen by a third since the mid 1990s and now top 300m a year.

Vikram Tanna, a GP from Manchester, admits his work/life balance has improved since the changes 10 years ago, which allowed GPs to stop doing weekends and nights.

But he says his major concern is that he does not have enough time with patients.

"Consultations are meant to last 10 minutes, but patients increasingly have complex conditions, they expect more and there is more we can do. There is just not enough time."

Stuart Sutton, who has just become a partner in a practice in east London, agrees.

"I have just taken over from someone who has worked here for 25 years.

Start Quote

The government likes to say it has protected the health service. It hasn't”

End Quote Dr Vikram Tanna Manchester GP

"My concern is that I won't get to know the patients like he did. That is important. Knowing the local community, knowing their history. Without that you can't give the kind of care you want to."

But it is not just doctors who are feeling the pinch. Shelley Verity works as a practice nurse in Bradford.

She says this year her workload has increased because of the introduction of the shingles vaccine for the elderly and the expansion of the winter flu jabs to children.

"This is happening at a time when money is being taken away from us," she adds.

But isn't this just a reflection of what is happening across society?

After all, most households would argue they are having to make the family budget stretch further, while town halls are still trying to work out how cuts in funding of over a quarter can be managed.

GPs believe that misses the point - as Dr Tanna points out.

"The government likes to say it has protected the health service. It hasn't - that is what we are saying."

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    GPs deserve the best.
    They deserve:
    The freedom to run their own practices how they see fit.
    To treat in a manner and choosing between them & their customer.
    To be free from the edicts from a distant central politburo.
    To charge as much or as little as they want.
    To innovate and compete, to see the best rewarded for the work they do.

    The NHS delivers none of these. GPs, us, we all deserve better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    GPs, like many doctors, hated the thought of the NHS being created in the first place. Look at the history of the NHS before commenting.
    They now restrict appointments, so that you can only ring up, on the day after 8AM, for a few appointments, or wait at the surgery for hours on end to see a doctor, while their poorly paid reception staff take all the grief and abuse these arrangements cause.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    251.Velvet Streak
    It's government fault GPs are strained, as the government's monopoly they also suffer is buckling under the inherent insolvencies of Marxism.

    Wasn't it the same managers of the NHS who stole yet more wages from struggling UK families to pay the bonuses of those failed bankers? Everything government touches, rots, healthcare is no exception. We need to take it off government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    251.Velvet Streak
    "The NHS still runs a good service..."
    The NHS runs a good service?
    Could you explain why the state promised people healthcare, taxed their working lives - and they are unable to afford private insurance as a result, increasingly get rationed care or are denied care?

    Is it "a good service" that taxes children via deficit spending to deliver this rationed or denied care?

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    @223 SurfingSharka

    Re-constructive, corrective, "augmentation" and "plastic" surgery pre-date WWI by quite a few years the ancient Egyptians where preforming brain surgery while building the pyramids - drilling a hole into the skull to relieve pressure from the brain, they also had quite sophisticated prosthetics that where not just functional but stylised - big toes that looked like big toes


Comments 5 of 257



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