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'Doc Martin' sets poor example


From the President of the College, Dr Jonathan Fox

20 February 2006

‘Doc Martin’ sets poor example

The abrasive, even abusive GP portrayed by actor Martin Clunes in Doc Martin (TV1 Sundays) wouldn’t make it as a GP in New Zealand, despite his screen persona as a very good clinician.

“Doctors today need to be patient-centred, and be able to communicate properly, in addition to having high quality clinical skills,” says College of GPs president Dr Jonathan Fox. “Sometimes we seem to be trying to get doctors to run before they’ve been properly trained to walk.”

Dr Fox was responding to publication of research that showed a shortfall in often basic skills by hospital doctors. The College trains GPs to specialist level for general practice, and has also noted a decline in the skill level of junior doctors.

“We had not expected to have to train in these skills at registrar level, but the service-dominated hospital environment is no longer sufficient to allow either med students or junior doctors to learn the required range of skills,” Dr Fox said.

The College believes the multiple reasons for this decline are very complex, including the shorter length of time before patients are discharged from hospitals.

“There is now a lot more care out in the community, and a consequent opportunity to learn skills there.”

Dr Fox said general practice remains a credible alternative for this basic training – “we just need the appropriate funding.” The College is working to give junior doctors this vital experience.

“We now run a very successful programme for house surgeons in rural general practice. This not only gives them vital physical examination experience and improved diagnostic skills, but also showcases general practice as a whole. But there are only 24 places available this year.”

“We could even offer Doc Martin a place on one of our Communication courses, to overlay that skill on his clinical expertise,” Dr Fox joked.


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