GPs are under enormous pressure – but mine is still somehow brilliant

I have a great GP. I’m not saying that to show off, or to rub anyone’s nose in anything. I’m not saying it to undermine the case overall that general practice is on its knees, in the middle of a recruitment crisis, nationwide burnout and deliberate, long-range underfunding. It just feels as if patients have been backed into a corner where, if we complain about our access to general medicine, some tax-avoiding Tory pops up to suggest that we should pay for appointments, while, if we say it’s fine, they say: “There you go – it’s all going great and nobody knows what doctors are complaining about.” There ought to be some space between these two options where you can acknowledge the pressure GPs are under, while still noting that they’re good. It is fashionable to call this “nuance”, but truthfully, it’s not that complicated.

Anyway, while my GP is great, I didn’t know if I could say the same for my mother, and I’d offered to call and get her an appointment because she hates getting up for 8am. Obviously, I then forgot and didn’t call until the tumbleweed hour – 8.29, to be precise – when all the appointments are gone and you have to admit to your mother that you’re useless. But, if I live in a kind of Scandinavian GP world, where everything is timely and running the way it should, my mum lives in medical Narnia. Same-day appointment, not too early (they somehow have it in her notes that she is not a morning person) with the loudest doctor (they also know she is deaf, but diplomatically call it “hard of hearing”, which is ironic, because it’s much harder on everybody else). When they asked if she’d like a mid-morning call from a receptionist, to reassure her that the doctor would call her later, it began to sound like a guilt trip. It’s great when a GP is solicitous, but this was making me look bad.

Anyway, GPs – very overstretched, chronically underfunded, ceaselessly undermined by a rabid media, still doing a great job. That wasn’t so complicated, was it?

  • Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist