A GP standing for parliament
Dr Paul Williams describes a typical day for an aspiring MP
Profile: Dr Paul Williams
dr paul williams 3x2 a
Role GP at Tennant Street Medical Practice, Labour candidate for the South Stockton constituency at the 2017 general election, chief executive of Hartlepool & Stockton Health GP federation
Location Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham
Hours worked 6 sessions a week as GP partner, 20 hours a week in GP federation
I usually start the day with a run, swim or a bike ride. I’m a keen triathlete. I race during the summer and I have cycled the length of the Tour de France before.
I get ready for surgery. My work as a GP has informed my politics and vice versa. In my constituency of South Stockton, health inequalities are among the worst in the country. The life expectancy in some parts of the constituency is 16 years less than others, and this is mainly due to socioeconomic factors. It’s my view that to change the health of the population, the whole political landscape needs to change.
Many of the patients I will see today are going through work capability assessments. They have mental health problems, exacerbated by worries about money and poor housing, among other things. But the WCA policy takes little or no account of this.
As GPs, we can tend to medicalise many of the problems that people bring to us. But many of these health issues are caused by poverty and stress.
I speak to the Labour Party campaign co-ordinator. I only found out this week that I was going to be a candidate. Because it was a snap election, it has all happened pretty fast. Applications to be a candidate opened on the Friday, closed on Sunday. I had to submit a written application detailing why I would be right for candidacy. On Monday, I was told I was chosen to be a candidate by the party’s National Executive Committee.
I have been a Labour Party member since my university days. After returning to Stockton from a four-year stint as a volunteer in Uganda, I found out the area had a Conservative MP so I started canvassing and I have been involved ever since.
We discuss our campaign strategy. The party has encouraged me to get out there and speak to people about health, including GP waiting times. But they also want me to speak about housing, education and other issues. It won’t be easy for us – there is a 5,000 Conservative majority in my constituency. But we will start campaigning on Saturday and get the message out there.
I’ll spend much of the afternoon seeing and calling patients and doing the usual administration in the practice. I appreciate how hard GPs work – we are usually the first to arrive in the building and the last to leave. Reducing unnecessary work done by GPs is a priority for our federation.
I start on the hard graft of campaigning. I’ll be using some annual leave to campaign over the next month. I want to knock on doors, chat to parents at the school gate and reach every part of the constituency.
I also get first glimpse of my campaign leaflet. The leaflet highlights the issues I see every day as a GP, such as patients’ inability to get appointments, long waiting lists and local health services being under threat of closure.
I am also chief executive of the Hartlepool and Stockton Health GP federation, and I had to attend a board meeting tonight so I am late home. Again, my politics has informed my work in the federation – I believe people work better together than alone. I end the working day by responding to messages. Communication is key during a time of change for practices.
We have had success. Urgent care services in our area were run by different private companies, including a walk-in centre run by Virgin Care. So when local commissioners ran a tendering process for urgent services, the practices in the area – alongside the local hospital trust – put in a joint bid, and we were successful.
I emphasise in my campaign literature that making the NHS work better will be one of my priorities.
I haven’t seen much of my family since being selected. Whatever the outcome of the election, I’ll be celebrating my daughter’s fifth birthday with her on Saturday 10 June.