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The life-changing magic of leaving general practice

Dr Kate Harding

Dr Kate Harding 3 x 2

Dr Kate Harding 3 x 2

Dr Kate Harding 3 x 2

In my last blog, I seem to recall declaring that, for the foreseeable future, I hoped to stay well away from the inside of a GP surgery, preferring the world of A&E. Almost as soon as I came to the end of that sentence, the GP service within our local A&E was suspended, without so much as an email from the hospital to thank us for our work or to explain the basis for their decision. So much for my escape from conventional general practice.

With a heavy heart, I signed up for some extended hours surgeries instead. Yes, the hourly pay is good. However, the work is hard, the appointments 12 minutes long (not the 15 I have seen mentioned elsewhere), and people present with exactly what they would present to their usual GP with, because it is virtually impossible to see your own GP any more during working hours. In other words, they come in about their stress and anxiety levels, their depressions, their difficult, wearisome lives – just as they do on weekdays.

My first Sunday morning surgery was five hours long with no break. The patients were good people; decent, hard-working, long-suffering. Not one complained about me running late. Not one set out to take longer than their allotted time with me. But they wept, they told me about their alcohol problems, discussed their estranged children with me, talked about their ageing parents, poor quality housing, asthmatic toddlers. Yes, one man had a cold, and another had earache. But quick consultations of that sort were very much in the minority.

Marie Kondo’s ‘The life-changing magic of tidying’ recommends chucking possessions out if they don’t ‘spark joy’. I am considering taking that approach to my jobs. I have three, still – two in palliative care and one on the fringes of general practice. Two spark joy, certainly. I love them. One sparks no joy whatsoever, and there are no prizes for guessing which one. Perhaps it’s unfair to say ‘none whatsoever’, because of course I still love the connection with people that is the core of what we do in general practice, but I have that in spades in my other two jobs, minus the frustrations and anxieties that, for me, go with being a GP.

So it comes down to money. The hourly rate in palliative care in comparison to the GP one is vastly lower. Does that matter? Well, so long as I have two children to support, it does. Would I give up general practice on the spot, if my finances were taken out of the picture? Of course I would.

Marie Kondo would tell me to chuck my GP work without further ado. I will take a slightly more cautious approach – for now.

Dr Kate Harding is a locum GP and hospice doctor

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Readers' comments (13)

  • GP land a joyless place at the moment.Ahmen.

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  • The idea is to keep things that are either necessary or beautiful. (Not that I do this myself). Although GP land certainly isn't beautiful, it is currently necessary to bring in the money for day to day living, especially if you are a single parent. Also, it is necessary to build up a decent pension fund for your future. I am surprised that the A and E department axed the GP jobs since they are clogged up with attendees who are neither accidents or emergencies.

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  • When did the National Health Service become the National Unhappiness Service?

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  • Unfortunately don't know anyone in their 50s who wouldn't retire if they could. Amazing how the politicians don't connect with this other than dumping more work on us. retire tomorrow would if I could should be the buzz word on the front of the tabloids.

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  • Totally agree- we give our all as GPs and are left drained and unappreciated. Packing in desperate patients- adolescent acute severe mental health ( patient and family ) in 10 mins as can’t get CAMHS appt, alcohol, drugs, sexual health, everything falls on the GP and in hospital they’d have more time and resources- etc etc-
    Thankless soul destroying job.... drained the life out of me- am on the brink-
    I feel for you too

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  • We also sift through 1000 results endless calls and 1 item not followed through speedily enough and the complaints follow- ignoring the hundreds of people who’s lives you’ve changed for the better that day....
    Risk averse nhs scan says fibroids but mri to exclude malignancy ? Nurse ordered scan - but didn’t follow it through and unrelated issue now blamed on GP who never saw patient just filed the scan. Really in what universe mr radiographer is that a standard clause you’ve left us to deal with?! And now endless practice e mails.....our screens are overflowing with patients and calls when do we do the e mails and what happens if something gets missed - GP gets it though the system is at fault!

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  • Doc - 16 Feb 2019 8:05pm succinctly reviews the difficulties.

    The new contract addresses none of this, so the intolerable situation persists.

    I see no one ever suggests striking any longer, as it failed miserably.

    One way workload may be controlled better is by us all becoming locums. Unfortunately this can not be done on mass, as so many have building liabilities and redundancy costs to bear as a minimum.

    In one way, retiring early is a form of strike action, by withdrawing your labour. You can always return to work and discontinue this form of industrial action if conditions ever improve.

    So, all of us who work part-time can say, on the days we are off, we are in effect, striking on those days.

    "We will not return to work until the employers side meet our demands through a negotiated settlement by respecting our workers rights and lifting the conditions imposed upon us".
    ;-) #GPstrikeactioninakindofway

    If you work part time, don't say you are off, say you are striking today. We can see how that plays out, nothing else has achieved anything.

    Pulse - how about a poll, of how many GPs would be happy to declare that the withdrawal of their labour on days off can be considered as industrial action?

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  • why don't we all take a day off from GP practice- say the 3rd of june - in lieu of over time and ask the rest of the nhs to provide cover that day, seems fair to me. might make a few people notice if we are not all there that day. its not a strike, just all taking the day off at the same time.

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  • Kate. You should join the RCGP because they can remimd you why being dumped on 24/7 is so rewarding....

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  • Dr Harding is responsible for condemning doctors to poor working conditions: she should not have accepted 12 minute appointments and a 5 hour surgery with no breaks. Her actions make it harder for the rest of us to campaign or negotiate better terms.

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