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Notes on a sandal: summer attire for the busy GP

There are few issues more important to GPs than the future of the NHS. Well, I think there are, and this is one: summer fashion.

I flatter myself in using the word ‘fashion’, as actually the last time I knew anything about fashion was when I realised everyone was walking around wearing crop tops and bodysuits and I thought I’d gone back to the 1980s.

No, I mean summer practical clothes so you don’t melt and die in the surgery. It isn’t saving lives, it isn’t saving the NHS but, damn it, it’s important.

For the gents, the warm weather raises some fundamental questions about the role and status of the GP. Do you carry sufficient authority while wearing shorts? What about a top that isn’t a shirt?

There is always the odd maverick who comes to work in jeans, or wears shorts all year round, but then there is a risk your colleagues end up with conversations like this gem I had a few weeks ago:

‘Hello Mrs Jones, Dr Norris from the surgery here for your home visit.’ 

‘Oh hello dear, come in. I’m glad it’s you and not that last doctor. He was very nice but he did look a state! Came in with a scruffy rucksack on his back, creased shirt and shorts! Looked like a hobo!’

There followed a few awkward comments from me about how clinical skill is more important than what people wear, but still.

Of course the flipside is the patient who comes out with: ‘I saw another lady doctor last time, the one who dresses like a waitress.’ Hmmm.

Male leg hair can be displayed with pride, but lady legs must be de-fuzzed. But this requires time – yes, the very thing we don’t have. The deathly white colour of your pins after months hidden under thick tights could be fixed with a bottle of fake tan, but then we end up doing this in a mad rush as we walk out the front door, herding offspring before us. Streaky.

Then there are the tops that gape like the opening to a family-sized tent as you lean over to look in someone’s ears. The escaping bra strap. And trying not to reveal too much upper arm flesh or that bit between your arm and boob that only models don’t have.

Oh, and covering up the weekend sunburn too.

Then there is the biggest problem of summer working – sandals. Now is not the time to demonstrate to patients how innocuous fungal nail infections are, or to show the three-month-old remnants of your last varnish. And especially not to the surprise CQC inspector; that sort of behaviour could lead to the loss of your much-prized ‘outstanding’ rating.

I’m exhausted and demoralised already, so here’s my suggestion for improving morale and recruitment in general practice – let’s

all wear scrubs. We can layer up with thermals in the winter, and wear them just with undies in the summer. They are lightweight, easy to boil-wash, equally unflattering to all.

Now all we need to do is pick the colour.

Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull