Perception and Misconception

It is quite difficult, short of a direct information request, to find out what the breakdown of members is in the BMA. Out of 7 GPs in my practice (and a good many others who I have known and have been and gone in the last few years) I only came across one BMA member. I suspect, in primary care at least, the BMA is a minority union. Yet they do negotiate with the government on behalf of GPs. Given the number of GPs in senior BMA positions you would expect them to get it right.

BMA GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said "chronic underfunding meant patients were often having to wait one or two weeks for an appointment”.

I agree with him there – as an impatient patient, my usually pretty quick practice made me wait 5 days for an appointment.

The BMA conference in Harrogate highlighted that the increase in waiting has come at a time when the amount spent on general practice as a share of the NHS budget has been falling. True. But his further view that “Demand is outstripping supply. The patients we are seeing have more complex conditions and yet we still only have 10 minutes for each consultation - that is woefully inadequate”. (Source: BBC) hit a bit of a discordant note with me. He is of course free to set his own consultation length – where this myth has come from that he must set a 10 minute slot is anybody’s guess. He’s probably thinking about QOF, but that’s a minimum time anyway, and is voluntary.

If my practice is anything to go by, many patients are in and out in 5 minutes flat. I can name the doctors who rattle them through and know how to both conduct and terminate a consultation in a timely manner. Perfect for me. The less time I spend there the more I like it. I have better things to do. (Like write blogs) Other GPs, especially those with a high proportion of the elderly or the chronic patients have moved to 15 minute slots, or 20. You choose. It’s all about consultation skills and style.

In the interests of partner fairness, GPs with longer consultation slots consult for a longer period – thereby seeing the equivalent amount of patients as the doctors with shorter slots, and can therefore demonstrate an equable workload while at the same time consulting in a way which suits their style. Just choose what suits best.

I think the BMA need to be more expert in what they do and say, at least where general practice is concerned, or at least have some control over individuals and what they say. I suspect though, what when it comes to negotiating with the politicians, they are better than nothing.


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