Views And Reviews

GPs are much more than gatekeepers

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i2751 (Published 18 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2751
  1. Phil Whitaker,
  2. GP and author
  1. Bath
  1. whitaker.phil{at}btopenworld.com

The only healthcare professionals who can care for the whole person

Coining the term “gatekeeper” to describe the GP’s role in the NHS was a disaster. It creates an image of the real health service being elsewhere—in that shining citadel yonder, perhaps—with the humble GP huddled in a hut, simply lifting the barrier for those who need to be let in.

And, once you start thinking about GPs like that, you begin to wonder whether someone else couldn’t do the job just as well. Nurses, maybe; paramedics; physician assistants; or even computer algorithms or internet search engines.

The language of medicine

How should we think about GPs? For one thing, we are medical interpreters, steeped in the biomedical model, yet equally fluent in the ways patients communicate about, and understand, their health. …

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