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Dr John Fry, one of the founding members of the RCGP, published a report for the Nuffield Trust in 1988, in which he describes what it was like to be a GP as the NHS was founded.

John fry Dr John Fry (Photo: RCGP Archives)

Article copyright: GPOnline 26 June 2018.

There were no celebrations, no bands or public processions, and a few preliminary special pronouncements on 5 July 1948. It was a fine summer’s day and I had been in my practice single handed for exactly one year.

In preparation, for weeks before the appointed day the public had been asked to ‘register’ with a general practitioner of their choice. This was done by completing small brown EC1 cards (EC denoting Executive Council then, which for the next three years was the local administrative body for general practice). The permitted maximum number of patients for a principal in general practice was 4,500. Within a few weeks I had over 3,000 registered NHS patients.

How did general practice change?

What were the changes and differences in my practice after 5 July 1948? I worked from the same premises as before with the same arrangements for consultations and home visits for the same patients and with the same part-time staff, my wife.

Nevertheless, there were great differences. No longer did my patients have to pay or feel inhibited from seeking any help because of cost, nor did I have to worry how much to charge and whether I would be paid. No longer did my wife and I have to spend midnight hours sending out monthly accounts, of which 1 in 5 were never paid. 

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