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Peppa Pig accused of piling pressure on GPs

The character Dr Brown Bear creates 'unrealistic expectations of primary care'

Jack Shepherd
Tuesday 12 December 2017 10:36 GMT
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While there have been umpteen reasons given for our health services being stretched to their limits, few people have thought to blame Peppa Pig.

However, a general practitioner has suggested the animated show’s GP, Dr Brown Bear, could be contributing to “unrealistic expectations of primary care”, including taking phone calls out of working hours and making inappropriate home visits.

Writing for the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Catherine Bell begins by questioning why patients consult their GP for minor ailments. She then presents three cases that show Dr Brown Bear providing the Pig family with care above-and-beyond what should be realistically expected.

The first case sees Dr Brown Bear visiting a piglet at home over a rash, offering the patient medicine despite admitting the rash will clear naturally. Bell says the scene shows an unnecessary prescription that encourages people to “access their GP inappropriately”.

Also, by issuing prescription medication, Dr Brown Bear has either prescribed “antibiotics in an era of rising antibiotic resistance” or paracetamol which is available over the counter, rendering the Doctor’s visit pointless.

For the second case, Dr Brown Bear answers the phone for a minor illness, heading straight over to the afflicted pig’s home. “Dr Brown Bear conducts a telephone triage outside normal working hours and again opts to make a clinically inappropriate urgent home visit,” writes Bell, who also concedes that, on this occasion, the doctor actually gives a clinically appropriate reaction.

Finally, the third case sees Dr Brown Bear make an emergency visit to a pony with a cough, himself catching the cough. Eventually, the townsfolk all go to the surgery to administer him with a some medicine and sing a song.

“His disregard for confidentiality, parental consent, record keeping, and his self-prescribing indicate that the burden of demand from his patient population is affecting his health,” writes Bell.

In conclusion, then, Bell hypothesises that “exposure to Peppa Pig and its portrayal of general practice raises patient expectation and encourages inappropriate use of primary care services.”

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Despite being a tongue-in-cheek article about the cartoon, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, told The Telegraph there was a “serious message” behind the article.

“Whilst GPs cherish the unique relationships we have with our patients – and the trust our patients have in us - we are not always the most appropriate healthcare professional to seek medical advice from, if indeed it is necessary at all,” she said.

“At this incredibly tough time for the health service, we would encourage patients to think hard as to whether they need the services of a GP when they or their children are ill, or whether they can self-care or seek help from pharmacists, who are highly-trained to offer advice to patients with minor ailments."

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