Most people who have been to the doctor’s recently will have seen a crowded waiting room. Probably more crowded than in the past. I would like to explain how much busier GPs are than we used to be, and why this is. Ten years ago, it was exceptional if I saw 120 patients in a five day week. These days, I am in the practice for three and a half days a week, and it is not unusual for me to see 150 patients in that time. (The other day and a half are spent on clinical commissioning group work.) In west Kent as a whole, the 230 full-time equivalent GPs carry out 1.5 million patient consultations a year for the 463,000 people who live here. It is a staggering number. Compare that with A&E, which is rightly identified by the media as busier than ever. Our local A&Es in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells see about 120,000 patients a year. So we are seeing 12 patients for every one seen at A&E. This is the case across the country – everywhere, family doctors are seeing many more patients than ever before. Why is this? Partly it is that modern medicine can do more, for more people. People’s conditions are being managed more effectively, with more proactive interventions put in place and monitored by the GP. Take statins, for instance – millions of people take statins to help them avoid a heart attack. GPs seek out those patients who will benefit and ensure regular follow-up to pick up any problems or side-effects. And we are delighted to be able to offer that. Secondly, as we all know, the fact people are living longer means many more patients are elderly, frail and living with two, three, or more, long-term conditions. They may be under the care of a range of consultants but their GP is, rightly, their first port of call for day to day healthcare and if they feel unwell. Then, there are those who are under so much pressure that they call with minor problems. A young man who has had a sore throat for less than 12 hours may ask for medicine to make him feel better if he thinks he will be sacked if he doesn’t show up at work. We sympathise but really need these patients to understand that a chat with a pharmacist would be a better use of their (and our) time. The sad thing is that this level of demand is deterring younger doctors from entering general practice. I know of a GP who cannot retire because she can find no one to take over her practice. We need to do something about this, because GPs are the lynchpin of the NHS and without them, the system will not work. Although it is a minor point, I think it would also help if politicians recognised and celebrated the contribution that we make to the health of the nation, rather than implying that we, in some way, contribute to the problems of the NHS.