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Problems affecting the medical profession are not unique to the UK

Practices may be surprised to know that the problems they face are happening elsewhere in the world, writes Laurence Slavin.

‘Go ahead and keep looking over our shoulders, paying us less and asking us to work more. Good luck when we quit.’

‘This would be the greatest profession in the world if only the government would not be involved.’

‘Please discuss quality reforms and requirements with clinicians before implementing them. They have largely ruined the personal life of many physicians and imposed unrealistic impossible time demands that force GPs to spend more time treating their computers than their patients.’

You won’t be surprised reading these comments, but you might be surprised to learn that they are not from the UK but from the USA.

I try to avoid the UK news when I am abroad, so on a recent trip to the US I found myself reading the 2016 Physicians Foundation survey which has just been published. It is made up of a considerable body of evidence - 10,174 physicians who took part. The conclusions bear a remarkable similarity to our own experience in the UK.

80% of physicians report being overextended with no time to see additional patients. 54% of physicians surveyed rated their morale as somewhat or very negative. 49% said they are often or always feeling burnt out. 48% planned to reduce hours, retire, or switch to other work.

Also similar, since 2008, physicians continue to find patient relations to be the most satisfying factor – 74% and the least satisfying factors being regulation (58%) and erosion of clinical autonomy (32%).

A commentator on the report tells a joke. Substitute health care regulators for NASA…it goes as follows:

'Pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12bn to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at any temperature from below freezing to 300’ Celsius. The Russians used a pencil."

The special relationship has a new common issue.

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