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Theodore Dalrymple: See your GP? An impossible dream

Regulars |

‘So this is Hell? It looks just like my old cubicle’

Visiting the same doctor regularly is good for you – if you can

General practice in the NHS is to the patient what the river was to Heraclitus: a patient cannot get to see the same doctor twice. This is both inhuman and wasteful of time and effort. A doctor who knows his or her patient retains a lot of implicit knowledge about them that cannot be fully conveyed in medical notes. The consultation begins the moment the patient comes through the door of the consulting room, and the doctor can glean much by the way the patient enters – especially if he or she knows them well already. Continuity of care, as it is called, used to be standard, but is so no longer. An article in the British Medical Journal salutes its virtues in medical practice and laments its decline. The reasons for this decline are several, among them an insufficient number of general practitioners, of whom fewer than a quarter...

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