RETIRED Oxfordshire GP, Dr Paul Coffey, looks back in disbelief at the changes in general practice since his parents ran a surgery in the 1950s.

With no professional appraisals, little in the way of paperwork and no staff, the former Eynsham GP said his mother and father were very much ‘left to get on with it’ at their village surgery in Lincolnshire.

The father-of-three said the changes brought about during his own 36-year career have been vast forcing GPs to continually change with the times or risk being left behind.

He said: “The biggest change I think has been in medicine management.

“When my parents were GPs there wasn’t a chemist in the village.

“They would dispense medicine to patients themselves and would often would just put them out for the patients out patients’ medicines for them to collect.

“So if you were on painkillers they would just put them on the shelf to be collected by the patient.

“You couldn’t imagine that now.”

By the end of 1948, 96 per cent of GPs had joined the new National Health Service.

However, workloads for the now free-to-access doctors increased significantly amidst a lack of funding.

Indeed a report by Australian physician Joseph Collings painted a grim picture of postwar general practice in England prompting a change in funding and the founding of the Royal College of Practioners in 1952.

After becoming a GP himself and moving to the Eynsham Medical Centre in 1980, Dr Coffey said pressure on GPs has continued to grow, making new technology a vital component in any doctors’ surgery.

He said: “Without computers no-one would be able to do it.

“The pressure on GPs now is enormous - you would need two or three times as many doctors now without IT.”

He added: “There was very little change in the 1950s, things didn’t change very much at all.

“The difficulty now for everybody is that things are changing ridiculously fast.

“The pathways, the computer work to refer patients, the paper work, that’s constantly changing.

“Now there’s no direct communication between hospital departments and GPs, it’s become a lot more remote.

“There are so many referrals that it has to be that way now, it has to be streamlined.”

And with the increasing use of technology in surgeries Dr Coffey said it is vital that the relationships between GP and patient are not lost.

He said: “I have one patient who has moved away but he still rings me up for a chat.

“I looked after four generations of his family, him, his dad, his daughter and his grandson.

“That’s the nice thing about general practice.

“You have those lovely relationships its valued by both sides, but that is disappearing.

“It’s still a great job but it’s a different job.”