AN ONLINE community set up to give GPs a forum to air grievances about their work has come under fire from critics who claim the derogatory comments made by doctors about their patients are putting them off raising health problems at their local surgery.
GP Doctor, which was launched as a website and Facebook page last year by an anonymous doctor working in the NHS, has been used by GPs to criticise patients for taking too long during appointments, asking “stupid” questions and wasting medics’ time by consulting over symptoms which the GPs believe should be dealt with at home.
But critics have warned that the site is deterring patients from visiting their GP because they fear being mocked behind their backs. Angry patients have also accused the site of showing contempt for ill members of the public who do not have medical training.
The site is visited regularly by GPs and other medical professionals from around the UK who use it to express their annoyance at issues they encounter at work and comment on posts made by the anonymous GP Doctor, who works as a general practitioner somewhere in the UK.
Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “I am appalled by this. They are letting down their profession and letting down patients by treating them like that and making a joke out of it. It would be one thing if they were talking to each other where nobody else can see, but they know this is in an open forum.”
Turner said it could deter patients from visiting their doctor. “If you thought your GP was talking about you in this vein online you would not like it at all,” she added. “They need to understand that patients are only going to see their doctor because they believe there is a problem.”
The site, which does not name patients but is used by many doctors via their personal Facebook accounts, was set up in response to growing claims by GPs that they are overworked amid proposed changes in the NHS.
Issues raised have included mocking patients wearing “tight jeans” who need a knee examination and members of the public who fail to understand which common illnesses are “self limiting” and do not require medical attention.
The General Medical Council in Scotland said its guidelines make it clear that the standards expected of doctors do not change just because they are communicating through social media.
Prescription: ‘No pill for not being bright’
One comment made by the GP Doctor complaining about patients visiting with a long list of problems sparked more than 100 likes from health professionals on his Facebook site. He wrote: “[Patient says] I want to talk about my antidepressants, my mood is really low, my acne is no better, I think have a testicular lump, I need a letter for my employer, I have had abdominal pains for years and I have ankle pain.”
Poster David Hodges replied: “Smile. Nod. Phone wife and tell her I will be late home for dinner again.”
Grace Linney replied: “Then appointment times should be increased. People go in obviously worried about things and ten minutes just isn’t long enough in most cases.”
In another post, the GP Doctor detailed a consultation with a patient who said he had read that paracetamol did not work to help back pain and wondered whether he should change to a different painkiller.
In response to the doctor’s question as to whether he felt the drug was working, the man said it was. The GP Doctor wrote “????”. Responses from other people on the site mocked the man’s question.
“No pill for being not bright”, wrote Tse Gary. Daryl Lutter added: “A comment like that and I am surprised they are bright enough to read!”
In another post, the GP Doctor published a cartoon picture of a dentist with the words: “This is what a dentist looks like. So if you have a dental problem please go and see them first. I know my services are free but it’s not appropriate to waste an appointment seeing me first ‘in case I can fix it’.
“If I wanted to fix your teeth I would have gone to dental school.”