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In praise of #GPsInShorts

Dr David Coleman

The unrelenting heatwave leaving scorched plains across Europe has raised all manner of questions. To what extent is climate change responsible? How can countries be better prepared to manage wildfires? Why on earth did I buy a car without air conditioning?

One Cheshire GP, however, ventured further still, beyond the boundaries of science and some would argue good taste. Dr Jon Griffiths boldly floated the concept of #GPsInShorts. Not only that, he owned the concept, posing provocatively in a pair of navy blue chino shorts.

The response was largely positive, with some commenters praising his utterly appropriate decision to eschew socks altogether and others adding that he looked both comfortable and smart.

My own ‘bare below the kneecaps’ journey began back in 2004, during my elective in the South Pacific. I skipped the shorts step completely, making a colossal leap directly from heavy chinos to a tailored sarong known locally as a lavalava. If it was good enough for the consultants there, it was good enough for me. The difference in comfort level was a revelation and I felt smart. I’d wear it to work in South Yorkshire in a heartbeat if it didn’t resemble a maroon skirt quite so closely.

With shorts at work, it’s less about the dos and more about avoiding the don’ts

Nowadays when the mercury rises, I favour a tailored pair of chino shorts, like Dr Griffiths. My personal preference is for a length on, or just above the knee and I also leave the socks at home as they never look right. A belt elevates the look.

I pair my shorts with a short sleeve shirt and brown boat shoes, although loafers would work equally well. With shorts at work, it’s less about the dos and more about avoiding the don’ts – absolutely no lycra, patterns, or anything below the knee, and – please – no socks and sandals.

Surprisingly, many NHS trusts seem to frown upon the idea of male staff in shorts regardless of the temperature. I find this archaic and faintly ridiculous, to be honest. Obviously no one wants to see a consultant doing his rounds in sweaty post-commute lycra (although I have witnessed GP colleagues doing telephone triage in similar attire), but what is it specifically about men’s legs that require them (and only them) to be covered below the knee?

One of my pet hates in general practice, in medicine, in life, is the phrase ‘but we’ve always done it like that’. It boils my blood. This is the sartorial equivalent – ‘but men have always dressed like that’. And they clearly have, at least in modern times, but it doesn’t mean all future progress should be suspended indefinitely.

#GPsInShorts is happening people, and it’s just a matter a time before the hospitals catch on. And objectors beware! Remember the schoolboys of the Isca Academy in Exeter who made headlines last summer for wearing skirts in protest against the school’s ludicrous uniform policy? Come the next heatwave it could be a horde of beskirted NHS consultants doctors striding into work in dissent. I’ve got a fetching maroon number if anyone would like to borrow it.

Dr David Coleman is a GP partner and trainer in south Yorkshire