This week, I’m going to have to split you up into two groups. If you’re a trainee, I need you to stop reading RIGHT NOW. I’m sorry, young Padawan, but this blog contains important grown-up information that has been deemed unsuitable for your delicate sensibilities. So just let your eyes defocus while you think happy thoughts for a few paragraphs, and then hook up with the rest of us proper GPs at the bottom of the page. Kay? Kay.
‘What’s with the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stuff, Pete?’, I hear the remaining readership ask, in their habitual burnt-out presbyphonic croak. The answer, my silver-haired chums, is that I’m following the direct instructions of the RCGP Chair: we shouldn’t say anything bad about general practice to our trainees, for fear of scaring them away.
Fresh from an ill-advised photo opportunity with Jeremy Hunt in which they appear to be trialling the Chotchkie’s flair policy, Prof Stokes-Lampard says we should vent to our peers, but not to our juniors.
So, I can’t talk openly about rocketing indemnity costs, the recruitment crisis, the ever-more-intrusive scrutiny of our various three-letter-acronym regulators, the constant background threat of litigation or the incessant dumping of work from secondary care.
‘For every negative thing you say to a trainee,’ explains the Prof, ‘somebody else has got to say ten or more good things to reassure them there is a future for general practice.’ I’m not sure who this mythical somebody else is who’s managed to think of a whole ten good things about the job, but I’d like some of what they’re smoking.
OK, that was unfair. I understand the point Stokes-Lampard is trying to make, but if anything, it feels a bit unethical to wait until they’ve fallen off the end of the blisteringly expensive RCGP training conveyor belt before outlining to our juniors exactly what they’ve let themselves in for.
It’s hardly informed consent, is it? If we try and hoodwink them with the idea it’s all sunshine and lollipops they’ll just be at higher risk of disillusionment when faced with reality. As George Carlin said, inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist.
Oh, HELLO again! Did you have a good nap? No, just grown up stuff, nothing for you to worry about. The tooth fairy is real, and general practice is a flawless profession with absolutely no downsides. Now be sure to pay your college fees and if anything upsets you why not do some nice colouring-in?
Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson