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A GP Who Changed His Name To "Works-For-Free" Wants People To Know He's Paying To Keep His Surgery Open

Dr John Cormack-the-Family-Doctor-Who-Works-For-The-NHS-For-Free spent £4,760 in the last financial year keeping his surgery in Essex open because his NHS budget was not enough.

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This is Dr John Cormack-the-Family-Doctor-Who-Works-For-The-NHS-For-Free, a 68-year-old GP who runs Greenwood Surgery near Chelmsford, Essex.

In 2013, Cormack officially changed his surname by deed poll to "Cormack-the-Family-Doctor-Who-Works-For-The-NHS-For-Free" to highlight the fact that after paying clinical staff and the running costs of Greenwood Surgery with the NHS budget he was allocated, there was no money left for him to take a salary, meaning he was essentially working for free.

In mid-Essex, where Greenwood Surgery is situated, Cormack is annually allocated £81 per person for 4,400 patients to run his practice.

This is below the national average of £131.45 per patient per year as Greenwood is a small practice.

Cormack told BuzzFeed News that he could run the practice within budget "by sacking the staff and sitting by the telephone running a one-man surgery" but felt that wouldn't allow him to provide a quality of service he prides himself on.

Instead, he told us, for the last decade he's been pouring his own money into the practice to keep it afloat while allowing him to offer a dedicated and personal service to his patients.

He said that this includes things like offering surgeries on bank holidays, and follow-up calls with his sickest patients on a Friday to offer support that might keep them from turning to a hospital's emergency department when the surgery is closed over the weekend.

"It wouldn't be good for my self-esteem or for the wellbeing of my patients to do anything else," he told us.

A nationwide patient satisfaction survey recently ranked Greenwood No. 3 out of 25 surgeries in mid-Essex with an overall patient satisfaction score of 96%, compared to a national average of 85%.

In 2014, a year after Cormack changed his name, he was awarded David Cameron's national "Health Hero" title.

From 1 April 2016, GPs are required to publish their average earnings on their websites, leading Cormack to re-up his campaigning efforts in raising awareness of the plight of his practice.

While the latest figures show that the average earnings of a family doctor are £99,800 – that in itself a 2.2% decrease on the previous year – Cormack said that for the last financial year, he actually made a loss.

He told BuzzFeed News that his income actually totalled -£4,760 after paying other staff and practice running costs.

Cormack feels that if he simply talks or writes about "how terrible this situation is, everyone glazes over", so in the vein of his name change stunt, he has recorded a song, "The GP Blues".

"The idea is to try publicise the dire state general practices [are] in at the moment in a way that people relate to," Cormack told us.

"On the one hand you've got the government and the health service saying what we must do is move as much treatment out of the hospital as possible because it's inconvenient for patients to travel there, and treatment is expensive when often GPs can do it much cheaper.

"And then on the other hand, they pull the rug from under us by under-funding small practices.

"Even the well-funded practices are struggling to get new GPs when old ones retire – the whole thing is a sinking ship."

Cormack felt that forcing small practices like his to close was inefficient because allowing people a local and personal service helps relieve the strain of overrun A&E departments.

"Over the Easter weekend I did a morning surgery on the Saturday and another one on the Monday morning," he said, "so that if someone got ill on Thursday night, they wouldn't have to wait until Tuesday or take themselves off to A&E, which can put a huge strain on the emergency services."

While Cormack said he had received a great reaction to his song and his name change, he worried that they may not have had so much impact on healthcare officials.

"The people who are calling the shots say, 'The era of the corner shop is over, and the supermarkets have taken over, so why can't we do the same with the health service?'" he told us.

"That's fine if you're dealing with packets of frozen peas, but when you're dealing with human beings it's a very different matter."

Watch Dr John Cormack-the-Family-Doctor-Who-Works-For-The-NHS-For-Free's video for "The GP Blues" here.

View this video on YouTube

Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at

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