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Independents' Day

Maybe life as a GP isn't so bad after all

Seeing his old school pals moan about their jobs on Friends Reunited, Phil has had an epiphany about his own work

Seeing his old school pals moan about their jobs on Friends Reunited, Phil has had an epiphany about his own work

This can be a very negative column.

Recently, it has been increasingly so, what with the damaging political manipulation our profession has experienced, and the increasing interference in the way we treat our patients and run our practices.

This week, with your indulgence, I'm feeling pretty good for a change.

This has been triggered by a recent visit to Friends Reunited. I logged on to see what all my old classmates from Hartlepool in the 1980s were up to these days. The answer was: bugger all, for the most part.

I was amazed at the amount of disillusionment and unhappiness that seem to dog my old schoolfriends. Divorce, single-parenthood, dead-end jobs and low-grade dissatisfaction seemed to be the norm.

More than half of my old class has registered on there, and you might assume that the happy high-fliers would be too busy enjoying life to attempt to contact lost loves and ex-bosom buddies, but it transpires that the people I used to think would be world-beaters are the ones who are now advertising with: ‘Great days! The best! Anyone who remembers me please get in touch.'

And of course, one assumes that those whom I expected to be lying in shop doorways in a sleeping bag don't have access to a computer.

Incredibly, I'm just about the only person in my class who seems to be happy in what I do. I soon had 10 contacts – all women – wanting to get back in touch. What had changed? I couldn't even get arrested by a girl back in 1982.

Babe magnet

My wife and I have no secrets, and she raised a cynical eyebrow at this unlikely plump, greying latter-day babe magnet, but she let me get on with it.

I wasn't daft enough to meet up with any of them of course (alimony is expensive), but I was struck by one comment from a girl that I used to idolise (and with whom I got nowhere at the time): ‘We should meet up. It must be brilliant to save people's lives for a living.'

Wa-hay! I'm in a sexy job!

Is that what I do? Maybe it is. Usually we work in teams and it's hard to decide who's done what, but you can occasionally pinpoint the odd personal triumph. Looking back over the past 20 years, I can say with confidence that I have, well, not saved three lives but definitely personally postponed three deaths. It may not seem many, but hey. Ask them.

One lady had a cardiac arrest on the ferry from Stranraer to Larne. After frantically ripping the cellophane off a brand new resus kit I got her back, she survived. Her family sent me a basket of flowers.

One asthmatic teenager had a respiratory arrest in the wilds of New Zealand and I got him breathing again in what I still regard as the slickest bit of textbook resuscitation I have ever performed.

And on my own again in Australia, a lady in her 50s, I flatter myself, would not have remained among the quick without some snappy al-fresco venflon work and one-handed intubation, surrounded by a fascinated gaggle of pissed racegoers.

They may all be dead by now of course (I'd lay heavy odds on the two ladies) but that's not the point.

I'm not exceptional, I'm average. We can all pull similar anecdotes from our past, and in the complex and multidisciplinary world of primary healthcare, we're all making diagnoses and ordering treatments that postpone deaths all the time – but they are harder to quantify.

But in the words of one of my old friends who now works for United Biscuits: ‘I spend my life trying to sell more custard creams. I'd rather do what you do.'

He has a point.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley

Wa-hay! I'm in a sexy job!

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