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What does a doctor do? – Audio Long Reads

Continuity of care has been eroded in favour of "taxi-rank" medicine, where few people know their GP. Can that connection be saved?

By Phil Whitaker and Chris Stone

Stretched to breaking point by the pandemic, health services around the world are in crisis – with staff exhausted and demoralised, many of them quitting as a result. England alone is at least 6,000 GPs short of the government’s stated 2024 target – a recruitment pledge of the last election which it has already abandoned.

The New Statesman’s medical editor, Phil Whitaker, a practising doctor, reflects on the ordinary pressures he and his colleagues face – in this case, through the gradually unfolding story of one family’s complex needs. Is a young girl’s abdominal pain appendicitis or a reaction to stress at home? Are her mother’s heart palpitations a sign of everyday strain or an underlying cardiovascular problem? Whitaker argues that knowing his patients well can be life-saving – but that many family GPs like him fear their days are numbered.

In this moving insider’s account of life in the consulting room, Whitaker makes the case for continuity of care and a patient-centred, less transactional kind of medicine.

Written by Phil Whitaker and read by Chris Stone.

Read the text version here. It was first published on the New Statesman website on 8 December 2021, and in the magazine on 10 December 2021.

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