New book explores the crisis facing general practice through the experiences of GPs

Frontline GPs lift the lid on the crisis facing general practice in a powerful new book.

Why Can’t I See My GP? The Past, Present and Future of General Practice explores the state of general practice with passionate testimony from GPs who live and breathe the NHS.

Written by Dr Ellen Welch, a GP and past co-chair of the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), the  book takes us from the creation of NHS general practice in 1948 to the crises it is experiencing today.

It explores how the job of a GP has changed in that time and what can be done to retain the service and to make it better for us all.

The book features personal accounts from GP leaders including Dr David Wrigley, the deputy chair of the BMA GP committee; Dr Lizzie Toberty, GP lead for DAUK; and Dr Paul Evans, chair of Gateshead and North Tyneside LMC.

Other contributors sharing their experiences include Dr Aman Amir, whose surgery was targeted by arsonists; broadcaster and commentator Roy Lilley, who recalls the dawn of the NHS; and Chris Milligan, the bereaved husband of GP Dr Gail Milligan, who took her own life in 2022.

NHS crisis

Dr Welch said: “It’s a tough, demoralising time to be an NHS GP and things seem to get worse every year rather than better.

“This book emerged on the back of four years of campaigning for better alongside the DAUK – better not only for GPs and their teams, but for patients too because, ultimately, we’re all going to be patients at some point and we need to fight for a functioning system that will be there when we need it. 

“As an election looms, the NHS and general practice in particular needs to be at the heart of every political manifesto.

“This book explains why and we urge anyone with a stake in the NHS – staff, patients, leaders – to take a read.

“If general practice fails, the NHS fails so we need both understanding and investment from our government.”

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of the British Medical Association’s England GP committee, said: “At a time when other national health systems are trying to create the British model of general practice this pithy polemic, deliciously served oven-ready in small, easily digestible portions will equip and empower the reader to question why our government is seeking to dismantle ours.

“This is essential reading for any of us who may want to justifiably know why the jewel in the heart of the NHS crown may be lost forever.

“As the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’. Thankfully Ellen Welch presents us with elegant solutions.”

Essential reading

Dr Matt Kneale, co-chair of DAUK, said: “Dr Welch delves into the stark reality of why seeing your GP has become a struggle.

“Unveiling the systemic issues within the NHS through the lens of a seasoned GP, it lays bare the concerns many of us have tirelessly voiced.

“It’s not merely about the dwindling availability of GP appointments, it’s about the unravelling fabric of a health service built for all.

“This book is essential reading for anyone who values the ethos of a universal healthcare system and the indispensable role of a family doctor.

“It beckons public awareness and action at a time when it’s most needed.”

Dr Phil Whitaker, GP and author of What Is a Doctor?, added: “The passion for delivering high quality medical care shines out from each contribution to this unique book, and is matched only by the perplexity at the disintegration of what has long been the jewel in the NHS’s crown – British general practice.

“If it is to be restored, some of the solutions will be found within these pages.”

Why Can’t I See My GP? by Dr Ellen Welch, GP and past DAUK co-chair, is published by Calon/University of Wales Press on 8 February.

All royalties for the book are being donated to the DAUK.