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Farce or tragedy: What would the Bard make of general practice?

There is an annual village festival where I work, which displays local talent and some from further afield with an eclectic mix of drama, music and the arts. The festival has grown slowly over the years and the brochure throws up a few delights annually, showcasing the best of our local community and it’s amazing to see the hidden qualities that so many of our patients possess.

It’s tragedy and comedy all at once

The real drama though, happens here in my consulting room, involving the families and neighbours in our small community. Shakespearean tragedy or comedy is a daily event, and over the years I have seen enough to rival the bard’s wild imagination. If you need ideas for a new play or film depicting human emotions and the vagaries of family life then the primary care consulting room would be a great place to start.

Murder, death, deceit, divorce, adultery, crime are all present in abundance and  coping with the fallout of this is part of our extended role.

Of course we also see the very best of life – birth, love, care and compassion. The displays of devotion of patients to their loved ones and people they care for is truly humbling, it doesn’t make quite as good a story though.

Bad guys, that’s what people want to see, and our Government has sussed this and can create villains overnight with the help of their odious media friends. GPs are all of a sudden the bad guys. It’s all our fault and the NHS is falling apart because of us (not being held together as a result of our tiring efforts as we all thought). Like a conniving character from the boards of the Globe theatre we are double-crossing the public, pretending to help them but at the same time shutting our surgeries to enjoy a prolonged culinary experience in the middle of the day. Never mind the fact that we can’t find enough GPs and nurses to provide a safe five-day service, somehow we need to eke that out for a further two and a bit days. I fear that soon I may have to stick to just a couple of courses at lunch and even miss out on my amuse-bouche.

So what will the ending be? Romeo and Juliet or The Merry Wives of Windsor?

In Shakespeare’s words: ‘For never was a story of more woe’ or ‘let us every one go home, and laugh this sport o’er by a country fire’.

My money’s on the tragedy ending, but it will be a drawn out affair. Run down the NHS and pretend that GPs are the nub of the problem, and by the time we have all become disinterested, disheartened, retired or simply given up the good fight, it will of course be too late. We will emerge to find the NHS has gone, and fall on our own swords to relieve ourselves of suffering at the hands of the Government, who will be scrabbling around trying to quickly enrol overseas doctors to run a failing service before they are locked out and the doors bolted to our European cousins.

It’s tragedy and comedy all at once and has the makings of a great play. Some day maybe Theresa May will wake up and smell the roses. I suspect she enjoys theatre though, and like the greatest villains, has trouble seeing the error of her ways or accepting responsibility for her actions. There is always someone weaker to blame.

Is our profession weaker? Do we have the energy?

Time will tell.

Curtains up – Act 1.

Dr Richard Cook is a GP partner in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. You can follow him on Twitter @drmoderate