This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

I can’t be the fall guy any more

  • Print
  • 156
  • Rate
  • Save

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.

Rate this blog  (4.78 average user rating)

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (156)

  • have enjoyed your column over the years,many years! thanks for that.

    Wish you well in your health, and hope you can get out of the job soon.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dear Phil, I am very sad today having read your blog. I have enjoyed so many of your articles down the years- your wry humour and ability to see the pathos and the absurd (increasingly the latter) in what we do. I sincerely wish you a good recovery and that you will now have the time to spend doing things that are life enhancing rather than life draining. It is a sad day that the profession which has always cared for others has become one which ruins the health of its own members. It used to be the best job in the world... I hope you will continue to write- to encourage those of us who are left. We have allowed them to do this to you, and to all of us.... is it not time to unite around a response? One postdated resignation letter from every GP in the country is all it would take. What could be worse than what we are now facing? How bleak does it need to get before we act?
    Get well soon Dr Pev... you and General Practice..

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • OMG some are still advocating resilience training,mindfulness and Balint groups as the solution!! If all was any where near well enough in the state of the health services, those who are attracted to this kind of activity could indulge - as it is, for a start, when would any body have the time? How is it that some have the time and the energy to take on extra activities, sit on committees etc whilst others are drowning....It is all very well for those who do little actual practice any longer, to preach 'compassion' but where is it in the real world when Phil P and others can get into such a state for doing a great job. More and more health workers are losing compassion - have those running courses etc not heard of compassion fatigue? They don't see it or address it on their own doorstep.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thank you Philip
    Ann & Phil Bolitho-Jones

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Phil . Hope that you are OK . Have read your page for years , you actually made me Focus on the fact that being a GP Partner is not sustainable .You've had a feckin Scare there . Time to Get out . I did at 55 , took 2 months off Motorcycled in Bolivia , drew a line under it and moved on . Now doing 2 days as a locum and 1.5 days as a prison Doctor . Loving both ..I had issues which would have killed me in a year or two , stress and high BP , (only at work) There is a great life after being a Partner . You must act now .Family is the only thing that matters .No one cares if you die at work except them . I wish you the very best .You could do loads of other things . Making the decision to quit is hard , but once done you are in control of your destiny !

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I wish you all the best . Recover soon

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Resigned my partnership at 54. Life has never been better and I can honestly say I have not had one single day when I have regretted it.
    Phil, you are a hero for being honest about what you are going through. Let's hope that someone listens and does something to improve life for GPs.
    It's too late for us but maybe if enough people walk and look after themselves it just might make a difference.
    Get well soon, you are not alone.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dear Phil, get well, take your own advice and make sure you rest ! As for returning to work, your health is first and foremost. But what a huge and sad loss you and many thousand other GPS in similar situations represents to our health care provision. I am humbled everyday by the sacrifices made by my GP colleagues and fellow nurses. I mean it, you just take care now x

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I won't dissect Phil's post as Una has already skillfully done. It is a heart rending story- this and others and there are multitudes in similar or near predicaments who need to take that crucial decision. It was always about patients, now it's time for us. Let the government that fan the flames of demand and whet patient appetites unrealistically, provide much needed services. Time to walk out and say enough is enough.
    Bless you Phil, for a life dedicated to the sick and frail. I bet it has been worth every bit because there's nothing that lifts the soul higher than the feeling of being able to put a smile on somebody's face.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Its no fun seeing fellow colleagues going out one way or another.
    What I am quickly grasping as a GP in his late thirties is that despite feeling at the top of my game I no longer see this noblest of career choices as one I will encourage others to pursue.
    Personally I am more successful financially outside of GP and therefore I am being pulled in other directions but I would hate to leave, it would be heartbreaking....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say

  • Print
  • 156
  • Rate
  • Save