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Spare me from training day torture

Copperfield has reached breaking point over the endless round of study days and updates on things he could do in his sleep.

Copperfield has reached breaking point over the endless round of study days and updates on things he could do in his sleep.

We all know that the life is slowly being throttled out of general practice. And that the powers-that-be frequently dream up new ways of squeezing that little bit tighter.

Take, for example, the obligatory study day. Take it far away. Beat it with sticks, shoot it, then set fire to it.

Because I've had enough of being told that I, and my health centre colleagues, must endure training in this, updates in that and refreshers in the other. It's sodding ridiculous.

To illustrate, let me pluck a random letter from my pigeon hole.

Here we have an 'invitation' to attend an ECG study day - on the basis that, if we wish to continue providing in-house ECGs, we're obliged to attend.

Ditto for spirometry. And for smears, for Christ's sake. And, for our practice nurses - no kidding - a day's 'refresher' on ear syringing.

Why? To ensure best practice, a justification so predictable and vacuous that I might as well bang nails into my skull as argue the toss. But I will anyway.

An update on how to take smears? What's there to know other than you use the pointy end and get it in the right orifice?

And ear syringing? You squirt water in. Wax comes out. It's not neurosurgery - not unless you squirt too hard. If you reckon you can pad that out to a whole day's training, then your whole head's full of brown stuff. And it's not wax.

There are two problems here, apart from the obvious one of me wanting to punch whoever came up with these ideas.

First, you could conceivably deconstruct general practice into its various individual components. You could insist we have an annual update on each bit to refresh relevant knowledge and competencies - and yes, I know I'm sounding like a smug-faced educationalist - and PCTs, politicians and the public might think such updates sound a damn fine idea.

It's just a shame they wouldn't leave any time to perform the activities I'm being trained for.

The second problem is that this obsession with training and updates is demeaning and demoralising. What do they think being a GP involves, exactly?

I trained for six years to put the general in my practice, and I have the added benefit of 20 years' experience.

I'm a generalist, so, by definition, I know about ECGs, smears and spirometry. It's what I do all the time. Insisting I refresh these basics is like asking a footballer to prove he can kick, or a politician that he can spout shite.

Just leave me alone, let me get on with my job, give me space to breathe. If you don't, my response will be to say sod it, I'll just stop doing all these things. No more smears, ECGs, ear syringing and so on, because I refuse to jump through these stupid, patronising hoops.

So patient care suffers and my job satisfaction drops another notch. And if you think I'm just throwing a toddler-wobbler, you're dead right. Because that's what happens when you treat professionals like children.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex


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