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Actually, making a diagnosis is quite important

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 19 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:179
  1. Kevin Barraclough, general practitioner
  1. Painswick, Gloucestershire

    When I started in general practice it was clear that I was entering a new paradigm of medicine. It was one that required more holistic skills than the exclusively problem solving approach that I had learnt as a junior in hospital. I saw patients in their homes and came to view their illnesses in the context of their damp, inadequate housing, unhappy marriages, or lonely bereavement. I realised that there is, of course, a lot more to general practice than making a diagnosis.

    Diagnostic accuracy is the Achilles' heel of general practice

    But making a diagnosis is still a pretty important first step. All the skills that are rightly revered by the Royal College of General Practitioners—listening, communication, empathy—are seriously devalued if major diagnoses are missed. And are they missed?

    I have little doubt that they are. My own vicarious experiences, observing the outcome from a distance with family, friends, and colleagues who attend their GPs, have been very mixed. …

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