Letter: Front-line NHS

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I disagree with Jeremy Laurance ("Stoicism might save the NHS", 16 February). He suggests that the public should show restraint in consulting their GPs, or perhaps be charged a fee for each consultation. My great uncle, a GP I much admired, said that the art of general practice was to spot the one ill person among the hundred who consulted you. And how can the inexpert public know if their illness is significant?

My father, also a GP I much respected, advised me to drop everything and call urgently if asked to "drop in and see someone sometime if passing", but not to worry too much about the "come at onces!"

I was privileged to be his partner for a few years before being seduced by the glamour and excitement of hospital medicine. The GPs in the front line are the salt of what is still, for all its warts, the best health service in the world. Bevan rightly considered that it should be free to all at the point of provision, and that point should be accessible to all. A hurdle at access might deter the needy.

Tolerance indeed is needed, but of the struggling NHS by the public it serves. Love it or lose it.