This site is intended for health professionals only

Café? Fitness trainer? What’s your Plan B?

I get to meet lots of GPs. Partners, salaried, locums. I’ve noticed over the past few months one thing that unites them all. Other than the hatred of Jeremy Hunt. And Theresa May.

It’s that they all have a contingency plan. Their personal Plan B.

Why would you ever need a back-up plan?

I have one colleague who has bought a sandwich shop. Another is going to run a café. One is retraining as a personal trainer. Another has started designing websites. You name it, we are planning it. The less imaginative can walk into a private GP job any day of the week for a lot more cash and a lot less hassle. And these aren’t the jazzy few clued-up entrepreneurs you see in the press. All these are real frontline GPs who are taking the end of their careers seriously. 

This would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Why, after training for half your life and investing time, money, blood, sweat and tears into a career in general practice, would you ever need a back-up plan?

We have always talked the talk about emigrating, but not walked the walk. Let’s be honest, Australia is a bloody long way and Canada looks damn cold.

And our low sense of self-worth has always been a limiting factor – the rock-bottom professional self-esteem I see during appraisals, at conferences and in meetings. It’s as though as a profession we need permission to value ourselves.

It’s this characteristic that has enabled successive governments to ride roughshod over us. Despite our training, our qualifications, and our ability to manage a team, communicate in the most challenging circumstances, adapt and problem solve, we still don’t feel able to turn round and say: ‘Actually, I’m not going to play your game anymore. I’m better than this. I’m worth more (artful flick of hair like in the L’Oréal advert).’

But things have moved on from the general mutterings of discontent, to concrete planning. Whether you call it a contingency or a worst-case scenario, we all have one now, and we are talking about it.

And we are thinking outside the box. If you want to emigrate, you’re old hat. The GPs Jeremy and Theresa have pissed off are casting their nets wider. Now, we don’t care about money because things are so crappy we just need to get out. Turns out GPs can’t just do medicine, we can do anything.

Each of us has an internal monologue going on, and are constantly asking ourselves ‘what would it take for me to go?’ Some of us are holding on out of that heartfelt sense of vocation, or ‘for the patients’. More of us have kids to feed, and mortgages to pay. But we have moved from thinking that medicine is the only thing we can do, to envisaging a job that simply pays the bills and doesn’t grind us into an early grave. It isn’t worth it anymore, not now we are blamed for the entire NHS collapsing (cheers Theresa – still haven’t had your reply to my invitation to spend a day with us GPs by the way…)

Keep doing the day job. Keep the bills paid. But my advice? Make sure you have your own Plan B, because the knives are out for general practice and unless we fight back, you’re going to need it.

Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull. You can follow her on Twitter @dr_zo