Intended for healthcare professionals


The specialist of the discipline of general practice

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 05 February 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:326

Semantics and politics mustn't impede the progress of general practice

  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner,
  2. Philip Evans, general practitioner,
  3. Chris van Weel, professor of general practice (
  1. London N1 2JL
  2. The Guildhall Surgery, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1ET
  3. Department of General Practice and Social Medicine, University of Nijmegen, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB

    General practice p 354

    Over the past 50 years general practice has established itself not only as an academic discipline with its own curriculum, research base, and peer reviewed journals but also as the cornerstone of most national healthcare systems in Europe. In so doing, general practitioners have shown that the intellectual framework within which they operate is different from, complementary to, but no less demanding than that of specialists. General practitioners must achieve a working diagnostic and therapeutic knowledge across the reach of biomedical science and must be able to forge effective and continuing relationships with an enormous range of individual patients. They need to understand the processes by which illness is socially constructed within the patient's life, and they must mediate between the patient's subjective experience of illness and the scientific explanation.

    The breadth and comprehensiveness of its endeavour has made general practice notoriously difficult to define. 1 On p 354 Olesen et al attempt a new definition that …

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