I wanted to become a doctor from a very young age and pursued that dream and qualified in 1978.
I worked in the NHS as a junior doctor back in the days of over 100 hour weeks and gained so much experience but was constantly exhausted from going to work 9.00 am Friday and getting home again late Monday evening with disturbed periods sleep for short times during these long shifts and paid 1/3 rd normal time rates for most of it. It was deemed par for course then and I coped but I was many years younger of course so had more more energy and resilience.
I emigrated to South Africa in 1981 having married a South African and worked as GP over there util I returned to the UK in 1997. As I had been out of the NHS for so long, I had to retrain to be GP in the UK and spent 3 years in a vocational training scheme – hard work in my forties. Most colleagues were half my age! Such was my committment to GP, I battled on and got my certificate of completion in GP in 2000.
Since then, I have been working either as salaried GP, locum, or, since 2009, my current job as Partner in practice in North Wales. I have seen many changes, some good, some not so good and some downright ridiculous. I have always got on with job I love best, ie caring for my patients and offering best care I can. Such a privileged role and, despite all, always trying my very best to provide the level of care my patients deserve.
However, with all this continued denigration of our profession and lack of manpower and investment into Primary Care, expecting us to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources, I have had to think to myself- why am I doing this now at ripe old age 61?
We are portrayed as greedy, lazy, overpaid people who care nothing for our patients just as much profit we can make for doing as little as possible. We are blamed for all NHS failures from increased A&E attendances to not diagnosing cancer timeously and now Hunt wants to name and shame us for that. We face uncertainty during every consultation and make clinical decisions every 10 minutes over 50 times a day yet nobody seems to acknowledge the pressures we work under nor the stress involved in that decision making process. Our referrals to secondary care are scrutinised by clerks and we are chastised if we make too many, yet if we miss something then we are castigated even more.
I really love the art of medicine and being a GP but retirement now beckons, as I’m not sure how much longer I can continue with the present demands placed upon the service and myself and maintain my own sanity. The sad fact is that I can’t always provide care that my patients deserve through no fault of my own but because the system is in disarray.
My retirement will just add to problems recruitment and retention, severe where I work in North Wales, so I stay for my patients and no other reason. All very sad as NHS may well lose another well qualified and experienced GP, giving up due to an inability to the provide service I would like to.
It saddens me to read all the negative press we are continually subjected to and the ignorance of those in charge who really have no concept of what our job entails and how the expectation to ‘go the extra mile’ for every patient has become a daily marathon, and one I may have to step down from.