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Children’s television programme, Peppa Pig, has been blamed for contributing to patients’ ‘unrealistic expectations’ of what they can expect from their GP, including taking phone calls out of working hours and making inappropriate home visits.
Writing in the BMJ, Dr Catherine Bell, a general practitioner and mother of one, says that “exposure to Peppa Pig and its portrayal of general practice raises patient expectation and encourages inappropriate use of primary care services”.
She says Peppa’s highly dedicated and responsive GP, Dr Brown Bear, provides “clinically inappropriate” home visits or prescriptions, and has fostered unrealistic expectations about family doctors.
In one episode, the fictional GP makes an urgent home visit to a three-year-old piglet with a facial rash. He advises the parents the condition is “nothing serious” and offers a dose of medicine.
In another episode - ‘George Catches a Cold’ - Dr Brown Bear makes an urgent visit to treat an 18-month-old piglet suffering from cold symptoms. After examining the throat, he diagnoses an upper respiratory tract infection and advises bed rest and warm milk.
In the end, Dr Brown Bear’s hectic schedule catches up with him and he begins to develop the same coughing symptoms as one of his patients.
General practice in England is currently under intense strain, with the latest figures showing that around 12 per cent of positions are vacant and waiting times are increasing. Doctors also believe the pressure is being exacerbated by needless visits.
The British Medical Association said one in four patients seen by GPs in June could have cared for themselves at home or seen another healthcare professional.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Whilst GPs cherish the unique relationships we have with our patients – and the trust our patients have in us - we are not always the most appropriate healthcare professional to seek medical advice from, if indeed it is necessary at all.
“At this incredibly tough time for the health service, we would encourage patients to think hard as to whether they need the services of a GP when they or their children are ill, or whether they can self-care or seek help from pharmacists, who are highly-trained to offer advice to patients with minor ailments.”