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Independents' Day

Being a 'preferred GP' is an honour - but also a huge responsibility

Dr Salma Aslam

‘What’s your name again? Can you write it down for me? I only want to see you again.’

I was flattered. It was probably the closest to ‘I think you’re a good doctor’ as I was likely to hear. Was this the acceptance I had been looking for? All the other doctors had been at the practice for years. I was the new one. No one chose to see me. In fact, patients would open with, ‘oh I wanted to see Dr Smith, but she’s all booked up so we got you’. I was the consolation doctor. But now I was developing my own little fan base and me and my ego enjoyed the boost. For a while anyway.

Later on though, I got thinking about this consultation. As a junior doctor in general practice I was only going to be at the practice for a few months but what was it like for the doctor who had been there for years? Generally the patient who specified that they only wanted to see me again came in with some sort of crisis in their life. The loss of a loved one. A terminal diagnosis. A divorce. Unsurprisingly these difficult life events had had an impact on the patient’s mental state. Something in my spiel of ‘you need to be kind to yourself and give yourself time’ must have resonated with them. I felt very responsible.

I was worried about whether they would come back again. How they would cope after they left the surgery. Would they mind waiting slightly longer if they wanted to see me because of my annual leave? My initial happiness at them only wanting to see me changed in part to anxiety.

In my first week of general practice I discussed with one of the longest serving GPs the quote by the great Iona Heath: ‘In general practice the people stay and the diseases come and go.’ I feel like that should come with an added ‘health warning’ of ‘and with this you have a massive responsibility’.

In hospital, patients are protected. You leave and you know that they are in the capable hands of your colleagues. In general practice it’s you and the patient. Yes you can ask for help (and as a junior doctor I always do!) but the more your patients trust you, the bigger the responsibility to get it right is. When they just want to see you, that responsibility increases.

Doctors are human too and of course they will get things wrong at times. I’m not deluded into thinking that I will be any different in this. I just hope that when a patient in general practice trusts me enough to help them in their time of need I can be a doctor worth of that honour.

Dr Salma Aslam is an FY2 doctor in the North-East


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Readers' comments (10)

  • "You're the only one I want to see" often suggests a history of fallings-out with every other clinician in the practice. While sometimes I'm flattered to hear it, other times I'm wary!

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  • Cobblers

    Watch the flatters. They often have an agenda and they can wait to spring it on you after a few more consults with lots of soft soap in between.

    The other problem is that when you realise what it is they want and refuse their request you need to dodge the knife. By knife I mean verbal assault or complaint or poor feedback on "".

    It is so much windbaggery. Don't preen. You are not special. Along will come a prick to burst your bubble sooner than later. Better develop a carapace or as the RCGP twonks would say resilience.

    Harsh but true.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Dear Salma
    One word to summarise your article, 'continuity'.
    And representing our next generation, you should not give up hope if you have already chosen to commit yourself in this career , against a backdrop of dooms and glooms. Things said by old fart like me is only for references.
    Ultimately, it is about believing what you are doing and saying everyday , against all odds ......Heroine and
    Hero only rise in time of chaos.........

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  • be careful, be very careful! the doctor patient relationship is a very fragile and beutiful thing when managed correctly. too aloof and they don;t trust us, too close and we lose our impartiality. sometime we say things that needs to said and do things that need to be done. that is why we don't treat friends and families as we have emotional investment in.

    - anonymous salaried!

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  • Heart sink alerts! "You're the only one who understands my fibro fog".
    Spread the joy and misery around so patients do not become too demanding or have impossible expectations. Once you cannot give them all they want they then complain and only you have seen them so a mountain of misery.

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  • Yep.
    It's flattery first.
    Then the expectation that you will sort out their numerous demands in one appointment, will follow.

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    experience will tell you (I.m telling you) There is only ONE reason why patients suck up to you like this, and it is to one day take a massive liberty with your ethical practice

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  • AlanAlmond

    Be cautious of patients who flatter. People like continuity. If they are complaining about the last Dr they saw and telling you your wonderful, don't be supprised if they say the same to the next Dr they see about you. I've had people tell me I'm wonderful and the last Dr was terrible and when I look at the notes the last Dr they saw was me..they just forgot!

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  • Naive but you will learn. Enjoy the feeling while it lasts. Soon every one of these you will bat back to their "usual GP". Trust me.

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  • Ah, youthful exuberance, I had that once (I think)

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