General practice is attracting negative media stereotypes, discouraging recruitment, according to a new analysis.
Senior GPs are depicted as defensive – in contrast with hospital doctors, who tend to be quoted as experts, according to the report in the British Journal of General Practice.
Primary care is usually reported as being in crisis – with low morale and high burn-out, researchers concluded.
There were frequent stories about practices closing their lists and patient unable to get appointments.
Researchers Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Dr Eleanor Barry, from Oxford University, found 400 reports on general practices and 100 about hospital specialties.
They write: “Organisation of primary care services to compensate for the worsening shortage of GPs could and should be depicted in a more positive light, highlighting initiatives to extend the scope of practice of other professionals such as community pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and training receptionists in extended roles such as care navigators.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “We also know how soul-destroying it can be for hard-working GPs and our teams – across the country making more than a million patients a day – to see newspaper headlines unfairly admonishing their clinical skill and expertise and undermining their remarkable dedication to patient care.
“This can definitely have a negative impact on morale in general practice and poses a real challenge to efforts to recruit more GPs and retain our existing workforce.
“It’s frustrating because being a GP can be the best job in the world; it is intellectually stimulating, full of variety and allows doctors to build relationships with patients that simply aren’t possible in other medical specialties – we just need the time and resources to do it properly.