Why hospital specialists should spend time in general practice

Many have a poor understanding of how GPs work
confused doctor

Every hospital specialist should spend at least one month a year in general practice to familiarise themselves with that world, according to one GP who reckons it would improve communication between hospitals and primary care.

British-based GP Dr Thomas Abraham argues that difficulties occur in patient care due to “hospital doctors’ poor understanding of the modus operandi of GPs”.

He points out that while GPs have necessarily spent two years in hospital rotations, general practice is “uncharted territory” for hospital doctors.

“Admissions tend to cause much friction between GPs and hospital doctors,” he writes in Pulse.

“Rather than viewing ‘my patient’ and ‘your patient’, we all need to view it as ‘our patient’.”

Dr Abraham notes that one of the key recommendations of the European Task Force on quality in general practice is that specialists should be trained in the patterns of diseases, and signs and symptoms within the primary care system, as well as those presenting to specialist practice. 

“All trainees should have appropriate training and insight into possible organisational problems at the primary–secondary care interface from both patients’ and providers’ perspectives,” Dr Abraham writes.

But he says this can only be achieved by specialists spending time in general practice.

A small Australian study has also found delays and content omissions in discharge summaries are common.

These findings are consistent with other studies, which found good completion rates of discharge summaries, but highlighted significant delays and missing information in the handover process.