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The duplicity of wellbeing

The duplicity of wellbeing

Another NHS England bulletin and another catalogue of websites offered to promote my wellbeing. From support lines to coaching, and from action plans to apps, I apparently have everything I need to remain happy and healthy in my job.

Consulting with my 50th patient of the day? No problem – I’ll just do five minutes of headspace and be fired up for the next 20. Drowning in paperwork and patient complaints? A quick yoga sun salutation will inspire me to race through another pile. Another dump of workload from everyone who thinks I am their personal assistant? Easily managed: a quick vent with my life coach and its back in the general dogsbody saddle again.

Wellbeing has become the new word for resilience, because the latter now has a bad name. Maybe this relates to the GMC’s having advocated emotional resilience training after 28 doctors died by suicide while under its investigation.

What is clearly misunderstood is that the resilience stool has three legs, and if one is broken the stool starts to wobble. All the wellbeing resources thrown at me focus on only one leg of this stool – individual resilience. The other two are often overlooked: organisational/team resilience, and corporate resilience.

While I appreciate that developing my individual resilience is a lifelong journey, I feel secure in the fact that my responses to adversity have served me pretty well thus far.

Regarding organisational resilience, I am extremely fortunate to work with an excellent team of human beings, in a compassionate organisation. It is this team approach that enables us to wade through the endless workload with grit and humour. But for those who are less fortunate it may be time to reflect on whether to move minds or move on.

The final leg of the stool –  corporate resilience – concerns the structures in which we work. For most of us in the UK, this will be the NHS and its regulatory systems. And this is where the duplicity really begins.

To be sent a bulletin containing wellbeing resources for mental health awareness week, on the same day as the publication of an NHSE Standard Operating Procedure telling me to accommodate anyone wanting a face-to-face appointment is beyond ironic.

I wish I could say this was a one-off. That NHSE did not realise the letter would be misinterpreted by the media, and by patients who are now screaming abuse down the phone, demanding to be seen in person without initial triage. I wish I could say they have learned from a litany of past errors involving moving goalposts, media leaks and utter disdain for the profession. I wish I could be confident the duplicity will not continue.

GPs are feeling bruised and betrayed. We are working 12-hour days, consulting with more patients than ever and seeing people face-to-face where clinically required. We do not need a life coach or a therapist. We need a contract that does not make us ill, and a commissioner who does not feed us to the lion’s den. It is really not too much to ask.

Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol. Read more of Dr Nabi’s blogs online at

This piece originally appeared in the June print issue of Pulse



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

John Graham Munro 25 May, 2021 5:07 pm


Patrufini Duffy 25 May, 2021 8:24 pm

They won’t even give you a free parking permit. Or bed to rest in the hospital. You won’t be fast tracked through A&E and you won’t get anything but crap sandwiches and cheap apple juice on paper plates at your CCG meeting. They made you pay millions in indemnity fees and watched you risk your GMC numbers with demand which is unreal and laughable. No one has ever respected you, not even the 111 call handler. Even at medical school GPs were second-grade – an endemic bullying tactic, that you’re not good enough. You were carefully discriminated against, like a systemic racism, and no one ultimately cares how you are. You even had to give the patient back their gift, in that MCQ question. NHSE is full of narcisstic individuals, rubbing shoulders and vying for job promotions and mates rates and lucrative benefits. Look after yourself. Like the podcast says, “you’re not a frog”. You’re not a donkey either. And the universe is much bigger than all this. And them.

Concerned GP 26 May, 2021 6:28 am

Thanks Shaba for a great piece. You are right. All these attempts at “well-being” are just superficial nonsense and NHSE knows this. I feel they are having a big laugh at our expense. They are not fit for purpose are driving many colleagues to the brink. We need to say “no”.