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Learning the hard way – how a homeless patient made me confront the limits of a GP


I had a patient who told me that as a child during the second world war he had been evacuated from London to stay with a family in Devon. He found this family to be abusive and so at the age of 14 he decided to go AWOL. He roamed the countryside and found that looking for help from the clergy, medical profession and the law was counterproductive. He correctly worked out that those professional people were overrun with huge workload and had lost a lot of the compassion that (perhaps) they used to have. He found the best place to go was to find a large farmers house with a barn full of hay nearby to bed down at night. He made sure sure that the Farmer’s wife discovered him in the morning. Most of these women were very kind and of course there was always a plentiful supply of food. This was fine for a couple of days, but of course in the end the farmers wife would notify the authorities. So he went back to AWOL. He managed like this for a couple of years. As GPs how many of us have lost compassion (assuming we had some in the first place) due to the excessive pressures of our working environment?

Posted date

27 Nov 2017

Posted time