For the first time since I have been writing for Pulse, I had a little editorial nudge for this month’s column. ‘It’s the good news issue and we want to pack it with optimism for a change,’ said Nigel.
Now if this had been asked of me six months ago, I would probably have written a column to rival Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.
There are still reasons to be cheerful as a GP
But my life has become immeasurably better since I resigned my partnership in mid-May. I feel as if I can breathe (and see more clearly) again. The mental imprisonment was far greater than the sheer magnitude of the workload, although I am celebrating being free from both.
Yes I am still a GP. I continue to work in a salaried position and can easily contain my clinical workload through a combination of experience and the ability to say no.
So – what have I got to be cheerful about? Well, I’ve started running again three to four times a week. I go out with the mums on a school night. And I can get home in time to play with my kids before eating dinner with them. (‘Mummy, you can play football with me now because you’re not a partner,’ my six-year-old said).
But best of all, I’ve started enjoying my job again. Now I am free from the anxieties of running a business on a shoestring, I can relish the tapestry of the human condition. I can proactively follow patients up instead of reacting and firefighting. I can take pride in managing a psychotic patient who is confiding in me, rather than the crisis team, instead of washing my hands of her as soon as the referral is sent. I can see the difference between patient gratitude and patient dependency and how the former is vital.
Of course, there are still the same irritations – the unreasonable expectations, the social issues, the dumping ground. But all of these feel less personal and more manageable when you are in a better place. And the most extraordinary thing about it is that I am in a better position to look at the business model objectively. In other words, I am likely to make better partnership decisions when I am no longer in the role of partner.
Unlike some GPs with a public profile, I am not advocating an all-salaried GP model, even though I think we are heading in this direction. I have enormous respect for my partner colleagues who are staying the course, as it is they who are being exploited by this Government. But my advice to them is the same as my advice to a friend who was recently appointed deputy head of her school: ‘Keep checking to make sure you are okay – because no one else will.’
I will leave you with a quote from a dear friend who also handed back his partnership deed: ‘The good news is there are loads of opportunities for experienced GPs post partnership.’ And he is right.
Ian Dury may be disappointed that the Hammersmith Palais is closed, but there are still reasons to be cheerful as a GP. You just have to clear your mind to see and appreciate them.
Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol