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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)

  • Given the content of the article below, shall we all write to the Sunderland LAT to express what excrutiating pain we will inflict if they attempt such to our beloved Pev?

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  • Sara Harvey

    Blimey - I thought I had it bad with tears and a sleepless night every Sunday.

    Get yourself well, then get out and enjoy being well. So many responders with the same message to you can't be wrong.

    Take care love.

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  • my first senior partner wisely told me "be loyal to yourself"
    time to retire on ill health grounds phil and enjoy yourself and your family.
    thank you for all the witty blogs

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  • Phil, I retired. It's flipping wonderful.

    As the Romans said "Modo Fac" which, translated means 'Just effing do it'

    Dominic (aka Jobbing Doctor)

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  • Dear Phil

    Hope you get well soon, I'm sure your patients will miss you and I will miss your witty comments and thoughtful insights into our GP lives, they have often lifted me up when I have felt down, but your life really is now the most important.
    Definitely take some time out certainly no less than three months, I would say, don't do any thing rash like resigning just yet, get the full benefits from any sick pay that is due you,. Perhaps as you're the boss you could work reduced hours, just mornings, perhaps, or maybe you could take yourself on as a salaried partner.
    I wish I could help you with regards the financial problems your practice is in, but having read some of the comments above, it would seem that things might not be as bleak as they first look.
    I do hope you have the energy to write to us all again to let us know how you get on.
    Best wishes your future. Kind regards.

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  • I've thought long and hard about this post; I want to thank Phil for posting it and for his honesty and dedication;

    Im mid thirties; wife and young child; another one on the way too; I dread a future that may lead to me to falling sick or burning out due to the various pressures and external constraints thrust upon me; I chose a career in medicine and general practice because at the time there was respect, career prospects and control; I don't think i've ever felt so fearful of the future in what should be a safe and rewarding career. Im aghast at whats going on in England and how it seems , some of best, brightest and most caring and dedicated professionals are being thrown onto the scrap heap; Its not right. ITS JUST NOT RIGHT.....its not fair, its not moral and it goes against everything I believe in; How did the morals of a nation that just about built most of the modern world degrade to such a low level where people skilled to care (and im not just talking about doctors here either...think nurses, teachers or just about anyone else at the moment in public service...apart from the politicians that is) and treated like garbage and are physically and mentally collapsing due to illness???????

    I wish you all the best Phil. best wishes to your family as well and I hope they have you back in good health soon.

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  • Dear Pev,
    Wishing you all the best. Look after yourself as you have looked after your patients over the years.
    Kind regards, Sion

    PS Trolls are fracking hilarious-Balint groups would be the first to acknowledge the primary importance of looking after yourself. I suggest they develop a little resilience and cease posting Anon like frightened little souls.

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  • Get well soon and then get out. I retired 10 years ago at about 55 for health reasons. Haven't regretted it a minute. All I can think is how on earth did I manage to punch that clock as long as I did and what lunacy kept me doing it after I'd done as much as any responsible person needs to do.

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  • best wishes for a swift recovery my mate!

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  • I quit age 58, 6 months ago. Could take no more and did not wish to end up in a hospital bed. I have no regrets, the job is now impossible.

    Phil - put your family and yourself FIRST, SECOND and THIRD. Resign now - life is too short.

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