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Letter of the week: How much more pressure can general practice take?

When I was interviewed for a place at medical school, I was asked why I wanted to be a doctor.

News: NHS reforms push third of GPs to head for exit’ –

I remember saying that job satisfaction was generally high, doctors were generally well respected and while I would probably never be rich it was not likely that I would ever struggle financially.

Thirty years after qualification and now in my early 50s, I feel totally demoralised and let down. Job satisfaction is non-existent, I do not feel that GPs are well respected and I am about to struggle financially.

After the 2004 contract we did have a few good years, but now income is dropping like a stone, after some very aggressive PMS ‘negotiations’ with our PCT.

The Daily Mail and the previous government have systematically undermined the public’s respect for GPs, and every time one listens to the news there is something that we have done wrong. We are referring too many people to hospital, and yet we are not diagnosing people with cancer early enough.

The intensity of the work during the day has increased beyond recognition, and averages 10-12 hours daily with little time for a break or to meet one’s colleagues. Despite the number of appointments per person per year increasing steadily, we are still being criticised for not offering patients enough.

Hospital letters invariably contain requests for us to do something as if we are now part of their staff, and we spend hours in front of a computer looking at results, reading letters, writing letters and managing repeat prescriptions.

None of this includes keeping up to date, keeping logs for appraisals and now GP commissioning.

To cap it all, we didn’t get a pay rise – so pay is actually falling, our tax bill is rising, and the Government wants to make us contribute so much more to our pensions that what we take home will not cover existing commitments. More stress.

My last appraiser told me I needed to cut down the number of hours I worked, and look after myself more. I have two and a half years to go before I reach 55. I am not sure whether my practice will survive. It will soon cost more to employ locums than the partners will earn. Perhaps the grand plan is that we should not survive to collect our pensions.

When I started I could not imagine ever retiring from a job I enjoyed so much. Now I can’t wait to stop. I resigned from the RCGP and BMA partly because I could no longer afford the expense, and partly because I feel so let down by both organisations.

It is not too late though. We must make our feelings known before it is.

From Dr Michael Crow, Esher, Surrey