Reviews Personal views

A foray into unfamiliar territory

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 02 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:557
  1. Charles P Swainson, medical director (
  1. NHS Lothian, Edinburgh

    I went to a GP surgery one day recently. Not as a patient, you understand, but as a visitor. I have seen my own GP only once in the past five years, for trivial complaints, and haven't visited a general practice to see how they work for 10 years. As the medical director of a large teaching board in Scotland, with responsibility for primary care as well as hospital services, it was time for me to learn.

    I chose a practice in one of the most deprived areas of my patch. Car parking was easy to find on one of the streets around the corner from the practice. The reception area was nicely furnished and freshly painted, with signs clearly showing where to go and which doctors were consulting that morning. The receptionists were busy but polite and welcoming. I noticed that their desks had no telephones, so they were not interrupted and could deal with everyone almost as soon as they arrived.

    The GPs were wearing chinos, open …

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