General Practitioners are a discrete entity within the UK National Health Service. They are able to treat and advise on the full range of healthcare problems and also provide a co-ordinating primary care function to help people access specialist services. Sometimes they are perceived as gatekeepers to control inappropriate use of specialist services, but in reality each general practitioner is striving to provide the safest and best care package for each and every patient.
The key features of good general practice are the generalist skills, with continuity of care and a proactive approach to patients problems.
General Practitioners can deal with any problem that they are presented with by patients. This does not mean they can treat every problem, but they can assess and help resolve any issue they face. This means they can work with several different specialities to help resolve multiple problems for their patients. With their knowledge of the family and background of each person they can include the impact of social issues on any presenting medical problem. This can save the patients time, prevent unnecessary treatments and save a national health service money in unnecessary investigations
Continuity of care begins as soon two consultations are linked together. General practitioners in the UK are the best placed doctors to provide continuity of records (backstage)and often face to face continuity of care (frontstage) with the same doctor.
Continuity of records allow a doctor to quickly gather all the necessary information about a patient so that they are best placed to advice on the options for treatment. Continuous records allow earlier diagnosis, safer treatments and quicker routes to appropriate management.
Continuity of care with the same doctor adds in that more subtle, personal information about how a patient prefers to handle the consultation, diagnosis and treatment options. Records do not yet quantify this and it the relationship between two people rather than a computer that is essential.
Continuity of records or person may not be essential for every single problem, but they will always enhance the consultation. They make consultations more efficient, safer and more satisfying for both the patient and doctor
A proactive doctor, or indeed any proactive healthcare worker, can make the difference between acceptable care and exceptional care. It is about thinking ahead and dealing with all the issues rather than responding just to the presenting issue.
Being a good general practitioner is a challenging task. A GP does not know what problems the next patient brings, they often deal with multiple problems at once and have to explain and share decisions with each patient. All to be done in under a ten minute time slot.