Language is important in shaping public perception

I Agree

Dear Editor,

The below is in response to Shyan Goh, and may offer some clarification to my original response regarding the use of language in discussion on falling numbers of GPs.

In my original response I refer to the following sentence:
“The root of the trouble, they [MPs on the parliamentary health and social care committee] said, was that there were not enough GPs to meet ever increasing demands on the service, coupled with cases becoming increasingly complex from an ageing population and falling numbers of qualified, full time equivalent GPs working in the NHS.” (1)

Language is important, as is sentence structure, in creating an image for the reader. Perhaps this did not come across as strongly to a reader from Australia, or perhaps I have been over-exposed. Is the idea that GPs should work longer hours an isolated (and largely right-wing) UK fallacy (2, 3)? See Helen Salisbury’s article commenting on this phenomenon in the NHS (4).

Yes, there may be falling clinical hours, but this is not due to laziness amongst those in Primary Care; it is a systemic issue rooted in poor job satisfaction for GPs and reduced numbers of doctors entering GP training posts to avoid further years of being subjected to poor hospital working conditions coupled with inadequate pay and burnout.

Furthermore, I do not referring to “GPs challenging part-time GPs (or any doctors) to justify their personal choices”; it is the public and politicians who will continue to ask for these justifications if we fail to clarify and communicate the nature of the problems faced by the NHS carefully.

The language used by informed commentators, especially those writing in respected journals, is important in shaping public perception and directing attention toward the crux of these issues, and it is important to engage in discussion on this type of language.

1. O’Dowd A, “Restore the doctor-patient relationship in primary care, say MPs”
BMJ 2022;379:o2521. Published: 20 October 2022

2. Wooller S, Craig E.…

3. O’Brian N.…

4. Salisbury H: Oh, those lazy, part time GPs!
BMJ doi: (Published 10 December 2019)

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Electronic Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 9, 2022 – 09:06
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Language is important in shaping public perception

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Daniel J
Barnsley Hospital
Junior Doctor
Barnsley Hospital
BMJ: Additional Article Info: 
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