One of the more amusing side-effects of the doctors’ strikes is the deluge of wrong-headed articles they have precipitated, claiming that doctors can be cheaply replaced by nurses, by physician associates, or, in one particularly batshit variant, by robots. You know the kind of thing: 90% of what doctors do is simple, we don’t actually need any more of them, yadda yadda yadda.
This Sunday morning, I had an epiphany
Perhaps I’m thin-skinned, but it feels like the implication here is that my job is easy. Certainly it would be weird if, after ten years’ training and a further decade doing my bit in the ongoing struggle against hypomedthreemia, I didn’t find some of the work relatively straightforward; but what these I-know-why-don’t-we-just-get-a-chimp-with-a-search-engine-to-do-it types don’t seem to get is there’s still a spectrum of difficulty to be found within every consultation. Diagnosing my local solicitor’s viral sore throat is a piece of piss; getting him to leave the room without the antibiotics to which he feels entitled is harder than David Cameron in a charcuterie. And it’s the trickier stuff which non-doctors struggle with, if the letter from his walk-in-centre appointment an hour later (‘Impression: viral URTI, Plan: Amox 250 tds’) is anything to go by.
This Sunday morning, however, I had an epiphany, while working for our local extended access pilot. Like many others, our scheme had abandoned Sunday clinics a couple of months ago because of poor attendance, but apparently word came from on high that they must be reinstated to fulfil the terms of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund. I’d originally taken a principled stance, and said there was no way I’d do these shifts. But Center Parcs doesn’t let you in for free, it seems. So there I was, four hours of premium-grade irreplaceable GP know-how straining to be let loose. And of course there were still no patients, so I spent the morning writing this instead.
It struck me as being a crazy waste of taxpayers’ money that while the NHS is bleeding out, I was being paid a small fortune to man a white elephant set up solely to satisfy the Prime Minister’s bizarre fantasy (no, not that one) that everyone wants routine primary care on Sunday mornings.
Tell you what else it was, though.
It was bloody easy.
Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson