Peppa Pig ‘encourages parents to abuse NHS services’ says family doctor

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Peppa Pig may be encouraging concerned parents to tie up NHS services with trivial issues, according to a family doctor.

Dr Catherine Bell, a GP in Sheffield, says some parents seem to instantly consult their GP about minor problems.

And she believes it could be children’s TV series Peppa Pig which may be contributing to unrealistic expectations of primary care and encouraging inappropriate use of services.

Peppa Pig has been running since 2004 and is shown is 180 countries worldwide.

Writing in The BMJ, Dr Bell said that although one of the characters, Dr Brown Bear, appears to provide his patients with an excellent service - prompt and direct telephone access, continuity of care, extended hours, and a low threshold for home visits, his actions leave him at risk of a “burnout”.

A mother to a young toddler, Dr Bell frequently watches the cartoon and says she has noticed a pattern in parents coming to see her over trivial illnesses.

Usual advice for coughs and colds is to not see your GP but to rest at home and drink plenty of fluids.

However, Dr Brown Bear, who is voiced by Game of Thrones actor David Rintoul, makes regular home visits to his patients who despite reassuring the parents a facial rash is, “nothing serious” he still offers unidentified medicine.

Dr Bell says this case questions whether Dr Brown Bear is an unscrupulous private practitioner for: “It unnecessary prescribing for a viral illness, and encourages patients to attempt to see their GP when it is not needed. “

In another case, Dr Brown Bear makes another urgent home visit to an 18-month-old piglet with cold symptoms. After examining the throat, he diagnoses an upper respiratory tract infection and advises bed rest and warm milk.

Dr Bell said that “was at least clinically appropriate on this occasion, and his advice might encourage the family to self manage similar illnesses in future.”

In the final case, Dr Brown Bear makes an emergency visit to the playgroup after a three-year-old pony coughs just three times.

After examining the patient, he administers a dose of medicine immediately and warns that the cough is potentially transmissible. When the rest of the playgroup attendees and their parents develop symptoms, they are all given a dose of more unidentified medicine.

Dr Bell suggested that Dr Brown Bear displays signs of “burnout.”

She said, “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 said further research is needed to confirm her fears.

The study is published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.