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Dr Amy Small: ‘I felt like I was drowning’

I went part time in January because I was burning out.

I started to recognise I was spending less and less time with patients. I was worried the more time I spent with patients the more problems they’d tell me and the more work I’d have.

I felt like I was drowning. Every day I was getting up, going to work and hating it. I was there from 8am to 8pm and I was struggling. It was never ending. Knowing it would be the same every day and that I’d have to get up the next day to come back made it difficult to cope.

During consultations I would cut patients off when they were speaking. They would come in and I would see three or four yellow QOF boxes to tick. I was always hoping I didn’t generate a referral. I was curt with patients, I was always rushing, going on home visits but not delving into complex issues.

A patient saw me and I’d focus on the issue at hand but not go into other problems - which you should for holistic, all round care. I wasn’t sleeping properly, I felt stressed all the time. Friends would say I looked tired. Now I’ve gone part time people tell me ‘you look so much better’.

I’d talked to colleagues quite a bit about it in November, before I was due to go on holiday. I said that when I got back I couldn’t work at the same pace. I felt guilty about having to cut down, because it would increase the other partners’ workload, but I couldn’t go on.

Since January I’ve been working six sessions and I catch up on things in a few hours on other days. I feel so much better. I’m enjoying my work. Only going to have to see patients three times a week so I can still enjoy that time without the drowning feeling. Today is a day off but I’ve just been doing all the admin.

Definitely think we’re seeing the effects locally. We don’t have enough applicants for advertised posts. When I applied for a job three years ago I think there were 40 candidates, two years ago and only 10 applicants. People don’t want to become full-time partners anymore. We’re not filling trainee numbers, we’re not filling partnerships.

The Government are shooting from any which way at us, and they don’t care about the burnout at all. You can see by the contract imposition in England, pension reforms, practices now paying locum pensions contributions.

They don’t realise GPs are going to end up making mistakes, they’re going to end up quitting or if they do, they frankly don’t care. There are fewer full-partners coming in, therefore they are relying on doing the work with locums. My big fear is that the private companies will come in and hire a workforce of salaried GPs and what will that do for patients?

Dr Amy Small, is a GPC member and GP in Lothian