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The life-changing magic of leaving general practice

Dr Kate Harding 3 x 2

Dr Kate Harding 3 x 2

Dr Kate Harding 3 x 2

In my last blog, I seem to recall declaring that, for the foreseeable future, I hoped to stay well away from the inside of a GP surgery, preferring the world of A&E. Almost as soon as I came to the end of that sentence, the GP service within our local A&E was suspended, without so much as an email from the hospital to thank us for our work or to explain the basis for their decision. So much for my escape from conventional general practice.

With a heavy heart, I signed up for some extended hours surgeries instead. Yes, the hourly pay is good. However, the work is hard, the appointments 12 minutes long (not the 15 I have seen mentioned elsewhere), and people present with exactly what they would present to their usual GP with, because it is virtually impossible to see your own GP any more during working hours. In other words, they come in about their stress and anxiety levels, their depressions, their difficult, wearisome lives – just as they do on weekdays.

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My first Sunday morning surgery was five hours long with no break. The patients were good people; decent, hard-working, long-suffering. Not one complained about me running late. Not one set out to take longer than their allotted time with me. But they wept, they told me about their alcohol problems, discussed their estranged children with me, talked about their ageing parents, poor quality housing, asthmatic toddlers. Yes, one man had a cold, and another had earache. But quick consultations of that sort were very much in the minority.

Marie Kondo’s ‘The life-changing magic of tidying’ recommends chucking possessions out if they don’t ‘spark joy’. I am considering taking that approach to my jobs. I have three, still – two in palliative care and one on the fringes of general practice. Two spark joy, certainly. I love them. One sparks no joy whatsoever, and there are no prizes for guessing which one. Perhaps it’s unfair to say ‘none whatsoever’, because of course I still love the connection with people that is the core of what we do in general practice, but I have that in spades in my other two jobs, minus the frustrations and anxieties that, for me, go with being a GP.

So it comes down to money. The hourly rate in palliative care in comparison to the GP one is vastly lower. Does that matter? Well, so long as I have two children to support, it does. Would I give up general practice on the spot, if my finances were taken out of the picture? Of course I would.

Marie Kondo would tell me to chuck my GP work without further ado. I will take a slightly more cautious approach – for now.

Dr Kate Harding is a locum GP and hospice doctor