Yes, they have won again. The GPs have excelled in our local area survey. Each year, like the rest of the country, we participate in what is known as the place survey.

This exercise gathers local people's views about a range of services and functions and, as in previous years, GPs have come out as the top performers, with dentists second on the list. Both groups were well ahead of other local government organisations and primary care trusts.

I am a staunch supporter of GPs and primary care and I am not too upset by this result. When the question "are GPs the problem or part of the solution?" is asked, my hand always goes up to say they are the solution.

But others may be surprised at the results. We have a lot of concern raised about short consultations (10 minutes if you are lucky) and yet the public have voted: they love their GPs.

Care pathways

For my part I could not function without them. GPs and the primary care team are crucial to the development of all our care pathways. They have also been instrumental in the delivery of major public health programmes, including flu vaccines, child immunisations, smoking cessation and chlamydia screening.

Even when the government suddenly announced an unexpected catch-up vaccine programme for 17 and 18-year-olds for HPV (which can cause cervical cancer), the GPs rallied round to help us.

Of course, when I say GPs, it is important to recognise that other members of the primary care team are also involved. Practice managers and practice nurses are very often the key to the success and smooth running of the practice.

So what is the secret of the GPs' success in getting such a high satisfaction score? I don't think it is because they give the patient what they want or think they need. The last time I went to my GP, I left empty-handed.

Patient trust

Maybe their success lies in that important, time honoured, trusting relationship where the GP is there to do the best by the individual, whereas people like me, as director of public health, will be focusing on the greatest good for the greatest number.

I like the healthy tension between population and individual health. GPs are usually good allies when it comes to evidence based practice, so there is very little falling out over appropriate treatments. They are also crucial in helping to deliver health inequalities and, in my experience, have a good understanding of the needs of patients living in their catchment area.

I am really pleased that some of the new directed enhanced services have strong public health links. Alcohol, osteoporosis, learning disability and ethnicity will be good both for the individual and population health.

Discerning HSJ readers will be making their own assumptions about why GPs are so popular with the public, but can anyone explain to me why dentists were second best? I thought everyone hated going to the dentist.

Of course, my own dentist, Mr Midgely, is wonderful - and, yes, you guessed, I am having dental treatment next month!