Championing sexual health
Sexual health expert and GP Dr Richard Ma does a duty doctor shift and has a meeting at the RCGP - on his ‘day off’
Dr Richard Ma
Roles GP partner, member of the RCGP Sex, Drugs and HIV Group, and a doctoral student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Formerly a GP Sexual Health Champion for NHS London. In the evenings, cabaret performer.
Location North London
Hours worked per week Typically 34-36 hours a week, or five sessions, at the practice, and up to 10 hours on non-sessional work
I get up and make tea and breakfast while reading through my Twitter notifications (@Richard_GP) and listening to Radio 4. It helps me decide the agenda for the day, and check for any new GP-bashing or health scares in the Daily Mail.
I usually work at the practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; today is Friday, when I usually work from home, but it is hard to get away from practice business.
I have a meeting at the RCGP scheduled from 11am to 4pm but due to a staff shortage, I will do half the duty clinic in the morning, go to the College for the meeting and then return to the duty clinic in the late afternoon.
It’s not ideal, but if I hadn’t offered to do the duty clinic the GP and FY2 would have been working on their own all day.
After breakfast, I do the 10-minute commute to the surgery by bike.
Three partners have resigned from the practice over the past two years so I have been running the practice of 6,000 patients alone, supported by a handful of locums and salaried doctors. I often get the bulk of the paperwork because I know the patients best.
It has been difficult to establish a stable workforce as the workload and other pressures affect recruitment and retention. Patients understandably get agitated and complain that they do not see the same doctor regularly.
At the practice, I start clearing pathology results and prescriptions. On a normal Friday I would get on with my doctoral thesis on studying the influence of GPs on attendance at sexual health services, scan the journals, or check my Twitter account @GP_SexualHealth (leftover from my NHS London role) for relevant news and research. But today I only have half an hour for these things.
A magazine editorial I am writing about HPV vaccination is due next week but I am off to Val Thorens on the RCGP ski week tomorrow – I have been procrastinating.
As the duty doctor, I start taking calls to ‘triage’ patients over the phone. It only takes 15 minutes for me to get irritated with myself for coming in on my day off. Luckily, I had my appraisal a couple of days ago and was able to get a few things off my chest. I hope things get better for the practice, and not just for me. Our patients need the stability too.
Morning telephone triage is all cleared. Only a handful of patients needed seeing.
I head to the RCGP – thank goodness it is only a 20-minute bike ride away.
I have been a member of the RCGP Sex, Drugs and HIV Group for more than seven years. We promote good quality sexual and reproductive healthcare in general practice, and members have been involved with developing national policy, RCGP position papers, education/training and joint guidelines.
Today we discuss promoting sexual health as a ‘clinical priority’ for the RCGP, our aims for the next Sexual Health in the Surgery conference, and how new commissioning arrangements might affect sexual health services in general practice in England.
I cycle back to the surgery just in time for the latter half of the afternoon duty doctor session. It runs smoothly and I manage to finish off the paperwork before my week’s annual leave. I hope the practice doesn’t fall apart while I’m gone.
I cycle over to a yoga class, which helps me wind down after a stressful week. I often fall asleep by the last posture, which is quite relaxing until you get woken up to go home.
At home I make dinner and skim through my Twitter accounts, including my drag persona @Lady_JennyTalia, to get ideas for stand-up and cabaret after her (dreadful) debut at the comedy fringe event at RCGP conference in Harrogate.
I pack for Val Thorens. I haven’t written my editorial, but the Eurostar journey gives me another eight hours to work…