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A little positivity could go a long way



I spotted two interesting and contrasting pieces this week.

First, this, from Pev. Poor phibrillating Fil*. That was a tour-de-force resignation note, or worse. Get well soon. Better still, get retired.

Pev’s blog chillingly illustrates the physical and psychological pain general practice can inflict on those who do the job. And, nowadays, these stories of shellshocked despair are tragically familiar. Everywhere GPs huddle together, whether in the reality of an educational meeting, or the virtuality of an online forum, the impression is the same. As Monty Python’s Brian so memorably asserted, life’s a piece of s**t, when you look at it. Or, as Pev puts it, we simply hate our bloody jobs.

Except, here’s the thing: I don’t. The truth is, I bloody love mine. Seriously. Bear with me. I’m not on drugs. I’m not hypoxic. And I certainly haven’t come over all Arsey GP.

When I was 18 and desperately needed beer/vinyl money, I secured summer work in a factory making record player pick-up arms. It involved me pulling a lever up and down for eight hours a day while listening to Jimmy Young on the radio. After two weeks, I ran from the place, wide-eyed and screaming, vowing that, whatever job I ended up with in the future, it would have to be interesting, stimulating and challenging.

Say what you like about general practice, but it ticks all three. It’s well paid, too, and, despite government interference, provides a reasonable pension. Plus we’re unlikely ever to be out of work. I’m not going to list the current downsides for ‘balance’, because they’ve all been well aired, and I’ve been as guilty as anyone of banging on about them.

Which brings me to the second piece. Annabel Gilbert, a medical student from Oxford writing in the BJGP (look, the newspaper hadn’t arrived, OK?), says that she is totally committed to a career in general practice, despite incessant antipathy from everyone she mentions this to, including GPs. She signs off, ‘A little positivity could go a long way’.

And she’s right. We’re in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. We paint general practice out to be a hell-hole, then wonder why no one wants to join. Yes, I know, mea culpa. But I don’t rage against the job itself, I rage against the forces which don’t understand or value general practice and therefore screw it up for those of us who think, in essence, it’s brilliant. Oh, and maybe the patients.

We desperately need to fight our corner, and to do this, we need troops on the ground. So maybe it’s time to tone down the Pavlovian despondency. We may feel like we’re being crucified, but maybe general practice isn’t a piece of sh**t. When you look at it. Besides, what would you rather do with your career – pull levers?

Annabel, if you’re reading, there’s a consulting room with your name on it waiting in sunny Essex. You won’t regret it.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.