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Skydiving: the perfect metaphor for general practice

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No doubt you’ve seen the poster/video campaign aimed at encouraging medical students and junior doctors to enter general practice. The key image involves someone doing a tandem skydive after a GP has signed the obligatory consent form. According to the explanatory blurb, ‘You’re the one who helps them fulfil their dream of a charity skydive’.

Now, I’m all for new recruits, and I don’t want to appear churlish. But I do have some issues with this. First, there’s confusion around the dramatic skydiving image. At first, I, like many GPs, interpreted it as a metaphor for general practice. Which would be fine - so long as the exhilarated smile on the skydiver is replaced by a look of horror as she realises the parachute’s not going to open and she’s heading directly for a large mound of steaming, carefully-placed manure.

But no. In fact, the image is probably meant to represent a skydiving cancer survivor. And the GP is supposed to feel special because he’s ticked the box enabling her to do this. Which may give some degree of job satisfaction but, if we’re honest, on the ‘fighting cancer’ front, possibly not as much as resecting a tumour or curing by chemo.

Worse still, while form signing is unlikely to inspire undecided students and juniors to batter down the doors of the local VTS, it isn’t that easy, either. There’s all that agonising over whether charging the patient might result in you being sent to hell. And there’s also the medicolegal worry, circumvented by as many double negatives as possible: ‘I know of no reason why this person shouldn’t not be unable to fail to skydive’. Although that’s scant protection when headlines appear screaming, ‘GP sends successfully treated cancer patient hurtling to her death’.

To be fair, though, this campaign is just one of a series. And it could be quite effective if the others depict the cancer journey from initial consultation, through referral, via treatment, to celebratory skydive. On the other hand, it might just glorify other examples of GP’s signing skills - anticipatory meds, condolence cards, crem forms, and so on.

And it could have been an even more powerful – and accurate – image. Replace the pro-tandem skydiver with Jeremy Hunt, grinning, and the patient with me, grimacing, and it would have been spot on as a depiction of general practice being shafted. Rest assured, if that’s the plan for the next one, I’ll do us all a favour and sabotage the chutes. Don’t worry about me, though. My GP signed a form saying I’m fit to skydive.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield 

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Readers' comments (7)

  • Drachula

    It's all we are good for, us GPs, just doing the menial stuff like signing forms that have no real meaning. Just like QOF - you either tick the box or you look after the patient. Not both. Oh, we are good at ticking boxes - let's do an ad about it.

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  • The next episode is a GP taking a week off work to upload chatter onto the Clarity toolkit, and faking a 'thankyou' card for their appraisal.

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  • Made me chuckle on a cr*p monday. Much obliged Tony. Having stressed my way through the last week I plan to spend my evenings searching for a new job this week. F*ck it. I'm out.

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  • Does anyone actually sign these damn forms?

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  • Nhsfatcat

    It is a metaphor for GPs. Newly qualified GP jumping into the exciting unknown world to find morale, job satisfaction and salary hurtling downwards whilst the real world of expenses workload and a whole lot of pain seems on the rise and your parachute is packed and controlled by Jeremy H and his cronies.

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  • ...because signing forms is all we're good for??!?! UNBELIEVABLE

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  • Technically Tony, if you were being shafted you'd be sat up front with a gurning Jeremy about your rear.

    There, now try unseeing that mental picture 😎

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From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder