Changing the conversation about health

“GPs and patients have been horribly betrayed”: Dr Michael Dixon on the neglect of general practice

The College of Medicine Chair, Dr Michael Dixon, has issued a robust criticism of the lack of investment in general practice, saying GPs and patients have suffered as a result, and that improvements in secondary care “should not have been at the expense of primary care”.

Dr Dixon made the comments during an online discussion about his long career as a GP, which was presented by College of Medicine Vice President and English National Opera Chair, Dr Harry Brunjes.

The Devon-based GP, 69, told the virtual audience that he’d seen the number of junior doctors training to be GPs decline in recent decades, saying: “General practice has been horribly betrayed over the last ten years.

“When I started as a doctor, there were more than three times as many GPs as consultants. Today, there are about the same number of GPs nationally but more consultants than there are GPs.”

He continued: “We’ve invested massively in our hospitals and specialism but completely laid aside general practice.”

The College of Medicine Chair said that while it was important to invest in secondary care, it ‘should not have been at the expense of primary care’, saying: “We were promised more GPs five years ago but year-on-year in that time, we’ve had less.”

The discussion saw Dr Dixon touch upon other key moments in his career including helping to set up the NHS Alliance in 1998, which this year changed its name to The Health Creation Alliance, of which he was chair for almost 17 years.


He said being asked to form the NHS Alliance had been “exciting”, explaining: “It was a brother and sisterhood of people who, like me, wanted to have some say on what the health service looked like and, for a while, we really changed the centre of gravity and of policy. Until then it had just been the British Medical Association and, to some extent, the Royal College of GPs – sadly, that is what it is again today.”

He told Dr Brunjes: “There was a period when people with a passionate belief in running local services and listening to what their fellow commissioners and patients wanted was a national movement. We’ve now lost that direct connection with Number 10 and the Secretary of State for Health on general practice issues.”


The College of Medicine’s new manifesto, Hope for the Future, is our vision for better healthcare in the next decade.

Published during the uncertain era of a global pandemic, it looks ahead to a world altered by Covid-19 and has been written by some of the most influential names in UK health, including Sir Sam Everington, Sir Stephen Holgate and Dame Donna Kinnair. Click on the image below to read the manifesto online…