Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 17:44 UK

'The government is bullying GPs'

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News, Edinburgh

Dr Gill Beck
Dr Beck believes GPs have come under unfair criticism
GPs have been feeling the hot breath of ministers on their necks all year.

They are being told they must work longer hours, face up to a new generation of super-surgeries which many fear will put the future of small practices at risk, and last week they were accused of operating covert "gentlemen's agreements" to block free movement of patients between practices.

With average incomes of over 100,000 a year, many would say they have little room for complaint. But what is it like to be a GP in 2008?

Dr Gill Beck is clear - GPs are fed up. She has been a family doctor for nearly 24 years and has never known a situation like this.

We have been portrayed as working 9 to 5, but nothing could be further from the truth
Dr Gill Beck

"We are facing constant attacks from the government via the press. They really seem to have got it in for us. I think they are trying to bully us," says the Buckinghamshire doctor.

She cites the example of longer hours. From this week her surgery, which is responsible for over 16,000 patients, will start opening from 7.30am to 8pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as part of the government's drive to get half of doctors to open for longer.

Long hours

Dr Beck, who works alongside seven other GPs in Aylesbury's Mandeville Surgery, said: "Our patients don't want it, but because the government is so keen on it we have to do it.

"We would have lost money otherwise and may have had to lay off staff.

"So from this week doctors will be working shifts to cover the longer opening.

My husband is beginning to think I am a figment of his imagination
Dr Gill Beck

"But one of the problems is that it may mean patients struggle to get their regular GP. You have to question why.

"We have been portrayed as working 9 to 5, but nothing could be further from the truth.

"We open at 8.30am and my normal working day involves seeing patients all morning, followed by telephone conversations and repeat prescriptions during lunch.

"Then I do my home visits, finishing just in time to do afternoon surgery from 3pm.

"After that I often have a mountain of paper work that can take me to 8pm or 9pm. It is so bad that my husband is beginning to think I am a figment of his imagination.

"I love my job, but the way it is being represented is just wrong."

Just last week, GPs were under attack from health minister Ben Bradshaw who accused them of operating "gentleman's agreements" whereby they refuse to take on other doctors' patients, hampering patient choice in the process.

"I don't recognise that at all," said Dr Beck.

"Many GPs have full lists and if they did take on more it would mean the services for their current patients would suffer.

"I don't know of any doctor who would not take on a patient if they really had no where to go."

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