Dr Edward Stone hung up his stethoscope for the remainder of 2017. Somewhat unexpectedly, he had the entire week off after Christmas and he wasn’t due to return to work until 2018. He lay back in his leather armchair in front of a roaring fire and allowed the pleasant, burning sensation of whisky to pass through his chest.
He closed his eyes and reflected on the challenging year. Three months after one of his Partners emigrated to Australia, his Senior Partner was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing him to take up the reins. The sizzling sound of embers caused him to gently drift off to sleep until he was awoken by the strumming of a guitar.
Ed instantly recognised the sound as a traditional folk tune of Peru, where he spent a year on an archaeological dig during his first degree. His solitude was abruptly interrupted by the sound of his father:
‘You can’t sit around playing the guitar and drinking home brewed beer all your life. Get yourself a vocation.’
The ghost of GP Past transported him back to happier times… no inspections, no targets and very few complaints
So, he did. He followed in his father’s footsteps and studied Medicine before becoming a GP. The ghost of GP Past transported him back to happier times within his father’s practice. No inspections, no targets and very few complaints. And as a child at Christmas, Ed would receive dozens of presents from his father’s patients, as they watched him grow older.
‘Things aren’t so bad now, are they?’ Ed thought. He wandered around his empty house, the silence piercing through his temples ever since Mel and the kids left him a year earlier.
The ghost of GP Present exposed Mel and the kids laughing and playing Monopoly in her new boyfriend’s house. It also revealed grainy images of his former university friend surfing the waves after he had settled in Nicaragua. He felt winded by the pang of remorse and wondered how different his life would have been if he stayed in Peru.
Tired of the present, his mind drifted forwards to the skiing trip he had planned for February. Instead he was faced with the nightmare ghost of GP Future.
He saw an unshaven man heating up baked beans in a tiny kitchen on Christmas Eve. He was surrounded by empty whisky bottles and piles of newspapers. As the man entered his poky sitting room, he recognised his MRCGP certificate hanging on the peeling wall. How is it possible he ended up living like this? Through the ghost of GP Future, he was able to see the images preceding this scene. A GP suspended from the GMC register, accused of sexual assault. A GP paralysed with depression following this false allegation; an allegation which was dismissed, but unable to work again. A GP haunted by his past but unable to forge a future.
Ed woke up in a cold sweat, unable to shake off these haunting visions. He had to do something to over-write his future before it was too late. He ran down to the basement and rummaged through every box until he eventually found it. A little battered but nothing a bit of tender, loving care couldn’t fix.
And then he walked out of his front door, passport in one hand and guitar in the other. And he knew now he would be hanging up his stethoscope forever.
Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol