General practice in UK newspapers: An empirical analysis of over 400 articles
Barry E., Greenhalgh T.
© British Journal of General Practice. Background In the context of the biggest GP workforce crisis since the NHS began, the alleged negative portrayal of UK general practice in the media is often cited as a reason for falling recruitment. Aim To explore how general practice and GPs are depicted in UK national newspapers. Design and setting A thematic analysis of all newspaper articles mentioning GPs or general practice published in the UK from late October 2016 to early October 2017 was undertaken, along with a sample of articles on hospital medicine. Method Articles were identified through the LexisNexis® Academic UK search engine; relevant titles were tabulated and data extracted. A preliminary coding scheme was developed through discussion and used to categorise data; additional codes and categories were added iteratively as the analysis progressed. Results In total, 403 articles on general practice or GPs were identified, and 100 on hospital specialists or specialties were sampled. Articles depicted UK general practice as a service in crisis, with low morale and high burnout, and leaving gaps in patient care. The traditional family doctor service was depicted as rapidly eroding through privatisation and fragmentation, with GPs portrayed as responsible for the crisis and the resulting negative impact on quality of care. Hospital specialties were also illustrated as under pressure, but this crisis was depicted as being the fault of the government. GP leaders interviewed in the press were usually defending their specialty; hospital doctors were usually sharing their expertise. Conclusion Newspaper portrayals of general practice are currently very negative. Efforts to influence the media to provide a more balanced perspective of general practice should continue.