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Independents' Day

I can’t be the fall guy any more

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I have in front of me a letter from the A&E department. This is what it says:

‘This 15-year-old lad was playing football on Saturday, and lost his ball up a tree. He climbed the tree to recover it, but fell out from about eight feet and landed on his back. He did this four times. On the final occasion he fractured his clavicle.’

These letters give me the material for these articles. Human stories. The utter absurdity of the behaviour of homo sapiens. The basic material for 500-odd magazine columns, since I first started writing them 20 years ago.

The fascinating thing is the ambiguity. The obvious conclusion is that we are dealing with an utter moron, the type of dude Darwin predicted would be weeded out of the gene pool. But there is another interpretation worthy of serious contemplation.

Perhaps we are witnessing one aspect of the indomitable human spirit. The triumph of hope over experience. He kept climbing and he kept falling. It’s almost heroic. By definition, we only see the failures. Who knows how many teenagers keep climbing and get their ball back at the fifth or sixth attempt? There are probably many.

As I read the letter, I’m laughing and crying in equal measure. Because I now know this experience is nearly over for me. Because I can’t go on.

This article may be unique in the annals of Pulse because a decent proportion of it was written in a hospital bed, with 15 electrodes attached to my body and an IV drip limiting the use of my right arm.

The oxygen mask was hampering my vision and the pulse oximeter had to be transferred to a pinky, because I don’t type with those. But hey, a deadline is a deadline.

The fact that I was back in rapid AF and heart failure within an hour of getting back to work after a short holiday is not, I think, coincidental. The escalating workload, the tumbling income, the futility of trying to keep up with demand, the frustration of being the last port of call for so many problems that really are nothing to do with us; the sheer lack of time to practise medicine as it should be practised. It is insupportable that we are dumped on, taken for granted and held responsible for the failings of others. Above all, the total absence of interest in the vacancies at my practice makes the future as a GP partner unbearable to me.

My love affair with my profession is over. I hate this bloody job. I can’t stand going into work any more. It makes me depressed, unhappy and, latterly, literally sick.

I believe there is some currency in the Government’s ‘5,000 GPs’ idea, but I think they’ve got it the wrong way round. I predict 5,000 fewer GPs over the next five years, as people like me reach the end of their tether. I know of literally no one around my own age who is not thoroughly disillusioned. None of us will still be practising at retirement age. And there is no way we can be replaced, let alone the overall numbers of GPs be increased.

I have climbed my tree and fallen out too many times now. If I was stupid, I would get back up and start climbing again. But I realise that next time, I’m going to fall out and break something. In fact, I may already have done so.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland.

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Readers' comments (156)

  • what an absolute f........ disgrace that we have allowed this noble profession to sink to such a level.
    its time to make some changes guys.
    Dont just agree at those meetings to eveything they say . Stand up and say something that will shake things up. We need to get together now and make some signif changes . we are capabale of this we just need t grow some.
    We were amonst the elite of the educational output of this country and we are being regularly shafted by a system that quite frankly does not care.
    Get well soon Dr Peverley. I am so sad that you and we are in this. Take care. 49 yo partner. In it for the longterm.

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  • bloody hell get out while you still can sell up and move to spain and chill out I say

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  • Vinci Ho

    Please get well.
    End of the day , your own family is the most important. Life is only short...,,,,

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  • Phil, I have been reading and enjoying your articles and blogs since about the time you started them 20 years ago. Get well soon mate. Then get out. No-one will give you any medals for struggling on, not the NHS, not your patients, nobody. Make sure you live long enough to get your pension back and enjoy it. I manage a practice in a lovely genteel suburb of a lovely town in one of England's prettiest and most popular regions yet we can't get a single application from a GP after many months of advertising. The Titanic has been holed below the waterline and is going down, it is beyond saving, make sure you have swum away before it sucks you down with it.

    All the best Phil and thank you for the smiles and enjoyment your writing has given me over the last 2 decades.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    Phil get well soon. Um and why is Pulse making you write to deadlines from a hospital bed? Surely we can have locum blog writers to fill in while you recuperate in hospital? When can you retire Phil? It has become a life-threatening profession. Get out now!

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  • Get out and get well soon, Phil! Best wishes for your future health and happiness.

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  • Understand completely - watch the trailer for Mad Max. It seems relaxed and sane compared with a day in primary care .

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  • " Wanna get through this.......Go ! "

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  • I love reading what you write. Please take care, your family need you

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  • You're a legend Phil

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