A GP has written an article in the British Medical Journal claiming that Peppa Pig, a popular pre-schoolers’ cartoon, contributes to NHS patients having unrealistic expectations of their GPs.
Dr Catherine Bell, whose toddler daughter is an avid viewer of the show, also suggested that it could be encouraging inappropriate use of NHS services. Having previously often wondered why some patients make an appointment with their GP for the most minor of ailments, she writes that she thinks she has discovered the answer.
Dr Brown Bear, the GP in the show – who works alone – seems to offer his patients an exceptional service, with immediate and direct telephone access, extended hours, and a low threshold for home visits. In the tongue-in-cheek article, she offers several case studies and considers the potential impact Dr Brown Bear’s actions could have on real-life patient behaviour.
In the first ‘case study’, Dr Brown Bear makes an urgent home visit to a three-year-old piglet with a rash on her face. He reassures the parents it is ‘nothing serious’ and offers a dose of medicine, adding that the rash is likely to clear up quickly. Dr Bell writes ‘It is an example of unnecessary prescribing for a viral illness, and encourages patients to attempt to access their GP inappropriately’.
Dr Bell, who is based in Sheffield, also writes about how Dr Brown Bear makes an emergency visit to the playgroup after a three-year-old pony coughs a few times. After examining the patient, he immediately offers a dose of medicine and warns that the cough could be transmitted to others. When the rest of the playgroup and their parents develop symptoms, they are all given a dose of a pink medicine.
Dr Brown Bear then also develops symptoms, which Dr Bell suggests shows he is suffering from ‘burnout’.
‘His disregard for confidentiality, parental consent, record keeping, and his self-prescribing indicate that the burden of demand from his patient population is affecting his health.
‘He is no longer able to offer the level of service his patients have come to expect,’ she adds. Peppa Pig is broadcast in more than 180 countries, meaning that the way primary care is portrayed is likely to be influential to many people all over the world, according to Dr Bell.
While Peppa Pig conveys many positive public health messages, such as encouraging healthy eating, exercise, and road safety, she suspects that ‘exposure to Peppa Pig and its portrayal of general practice raises patient expectation and encourages inappropriate use of primary care services’.
What do you think?