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A GP Christmas Carol

Dr Shaba Nabi

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Dr Edward Stone hung up his stethoscope for the remainder of 2017. Somewhat unexpectedly, he had the entire week off after Christmas and he wasn’t due to return to work until 2018. He lay back in his leather armchair in front of a roaring fire and allowed the pleasant, burning sensation of whisky to pass through his chest.

He closed his eyes and reflected on the challenging year. Three months after one of his Partners emigrated to Australia, his Senior Partner was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing him to take up the reins. The sizzling sound of embers caused him to gently drift off to sleep until he was awoken by the strumming of a guitar.

Ed instantly recognised the sound as a traditional folk tune of Peru, where he spent a year on an archaeological dig during his first degree. His solitude was abruptly interrupted by the sound of his father:

‘You can’t sit around playing the guitar and drinking home brewed beer all your life. Get yourself a vocation.’

The ghost of GP Past transported him back to happier times... no inspections, no targets and very few complaints

So, he did. He followed in his father’s footsteps and studied Medicine before becoming a GP. The ghost of GP Past transported him back to happier times within his father’s practice. No inspections, no targets and very few complaints. And as a child at Christmas, Ed would receive dozens of presents from his father’s patients, as they watched him grow older.

‘Things aren’t so bad now, are they?’ Ed thought. He wandered around his empty house, the silence piercing through his temples ever since Mel and the kids left him a year earlier.

The ghost of GP Present exposed Mel and the kids laughing and playing Monopoly in her new boyfriend’s house. It also revealed grainy images of his former university friend surfing the waves after he had settled in Nicaragua. He felt winded by the pang of remorse and wondered how different his life would have been if he stayed in Peru.

Tired of the present, his mind drifted forwards to the skiing trip he had planned for February. Instead he was faced with the nightmare ghost of GP Future.

He saw an unshaven man heating up baked beans in a tiny kitchen on Christmas Eve. He was surrounded by empty whisky bottles and piles of newspapers. As the man entered his poky sitting room, he recognised his MRCGP certificate hanging on the peeling wall. How is it possible he ended up living like this? Through the ghost of GP Future, he was able to see the images preceding this scene. A GP suspended from the GMC register, accused of sexual assault. A GP paralysed with depression following this false allegation; an allegation which was dismissed, but unable to work again. A GP haunted by his past but unable to forge a future.

Ed woke up in a cold sweat, unable to shake off these haunting visions. He had to do something to over-write his future before it was too late. He ran down to the basement and rummaged through every box until he eventually found it. A little battered but nothing a bit of tender, loving care couldn’t fix.

And then he walked out of his front door, passport in one hand and guitar in the other. And he knew now he would be hanging up his stethoscope forever.

Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol


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Readers' comments (9)

  • Vinci Ho

    Poignant and liberating, well scripted , Shabi , Merry Christmas .
    I always thought you have enough writers to publish books under PULSE and that can for instance , raise money for charities, Nigel .

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  • Regrettably the image portrayed by general practice past is long gone. The question is will there be GPs willing to work in the brave New World?

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  • AlanAlmond

    For me personally spookily timely. Well written and entertaining. Thank you. Merry Christmas!

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  • David Banner

    Past - "find a partnership, my son, you will be set for life!"

    Present - "unlimited liability, CQC, ever increasing workload, spiralling costs, plummeting profits, last man standing, endless stress....AARRGGHH!!."

    Future- "and in the past, GPs used to be "partners" in their own business! Yes, they ran their own surgeries!! I know, sounds crazy, but fortunately Prime Minister Hunt wiped them off the map"

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  • Great writing Shaba! Hope salaried life is treating you well - you made the right decision: unfortunately the partnership model won't survive long and will provide endless stress to those partners left when it collapses

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  • Tom Caldwell

    I’m sorry I just can’t share your overly optimistic view of the future of GP future. Anyway for now let us feast on this massive turkey (also known as GPFV)

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  • or may be the final straw was opening a tabloid free GP newspaper and finding yet another columnist writing yet another dire piece feeding the delusion that we are all now and for ever will be victims.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Cedric - why do you read and comment? Does posting this kind of passive aggressive unpleasantness make you feel good?

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  • to AlanAlmond @ 10:09, no idea why I post these comments doesn't make me feel good, its not meant to be passive aggressive or unpleasant, just a reaction to all this awful wingeing dirge.
    My new years resolution is to stop,
    Many thanks for your feedback.

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