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Peppa Pig blamed for 'inappropriate use of Primary Care Services'

Peppa Pig is broadcast in more than 180 countries
Peppa Pig is broadcast in more than 180 countries
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Cartoon character Peppa Pig has been blamed for contributing to patients' unrealistic expectations of what they can expect from their GP.

A general practitioner, writing in the BMJ, also suggested the TV show aimed at preschoolers could be encouraging inappropriate use of services.

Dr Catherine Bell said she has often wondered why some patients immediately attempt to consult their GP about minor ailments, and as the mother of a toddler who is an avid watcher of the series, she writes that she think she has discovered the answer.

Among the characters on the show is Dr Brown Bear, a GP who works alone and also 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.

In the tongue-in-cheek piece, she offers a number of case studies and considers the potential impact Dr Brown Bear's actions could have on patient behaviour.

In the first, Dr Brown Bear makes an urgent home visit to a three-year-old piglet with a facial rash.

He reassures the parents it is "nothing serious" and offers a dose of medicine, adding that the rash is likely to clear up quickly regardless.

This case questions whether Dr Brown Bear is an unscrupulous private practitioner for conducting an arguably clinically inappropriate home visit, writes Dr Bell.

"It is also an example of unnecessary prescribing for a viral illness, and encourages patients to attempt to access their GP inappropriately," she adds.

Dr Bell, who is based in Sheffield, also writes of how Dr Brown Bear makes an emergency visit to the playgroup after a three-year-old pony coughs three times.

After examining the patient, he administers a dose of medicine immediately and warns that the cough could be transmitted to others.

When the rest of the playgroup attendees 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, writes 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".