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The Changing Face of General Practice – A different Type of Care

During the funeral of Dr Barrie Bayston there was much mention of ‘Barrie was the last of the old fashioned GPs’.

Barrie certainly was of the old school. A sole practitioner on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, an endless and exhausting profession. Today modern general practice is a very different matter.

It is not a question of moral judgement or which is better or worse. It is simply evolution of practice. What is undeniable is that young doctors no longer want to practice the way their forebears did, and that the desire to spend time with their families is a reality.

The way of providing community care had to change because young newly graduated doctors were not choosing to go into general practice. They were staying away in droves and still are. It takes a special young doctor to become a general practitioner today.

What the GPs of old gave to their communities, in terms of commitment and time, an equal amount was taken from their families. Patients of my parents’ generation and of mine, remember the visits to the family home, the GP waiting rooms full to the brim while everyone waited while the doctor was off on an emergency or delivery. Good old fashioned personal service like that was often to the detriment of doctors’ families.

Today the service provided is different. Not better or worse. The tools available today are certainly better and often provide quicker solutions. Some examples are integrated IT (information technology) systems and a bigger array of blood tests for better diagnosis and treatment.  Diagnosis and treatment can be dispensed from a Medical Centre and not just from hospital. The days of a sole practitioner are gone and what is lost in personal knowledge and care is gained by access to a myriad of practitioners all working together as a team in one place. We may not get home visits but we can choose our care from any number of doctors, nurses and allied health practitioners.

For a look at the modern world of General practice and Family Health Centres. See associated story - ‘T’was the Week Before Christmas’