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The tale of a spurned lover



Indulge me with a little career reflection. I’ve been behind this desk a long time now, and I want to share some memories with you.

A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated 25 years as a qualified doctor. Well I say celebrated. I just raised a quizzical eyebrow when I was reminded of this somewhat dubious anniversary. I note that not one of my contemporaries, the Newcastle University class of 1987, is clamouring to commemorate this historic occasion.

I cast my mind back to my first day as a qualified doctor at Hartlepool General Hospital. I was rigid with fear when I discovered I had to perform a minor surgery list that afternoon, alone. Work experience meant something in those days.

Having said that, I wasn’t truly on my own. The surgical registrar hung around to make sure I didn’t hack randomly at arterial sites and the lovely nursing sister would cock an approving eyebrow when my hand hovered over the appropriate surgical tool.

There were no such things as portfolios, competencies or being observed doing a procedure. I’m not necessarily saying it was better in those days. Even though it bleedingly obviously was.

I consider myself lucky. Dropped in at the deep end, at least I was familiar with this array of puzzling tools, having spent a few of my teenage years assembling Airfix models with the help of my (biology teacher) dad’s dissecting kit. My medical career took off.

About that time, I formulated my Career Plan. It was, basically, to never say no to anything I was asked. I realised at the time it was likely to be time-consuming, but back in those days it appeared that I had a lot of time.

As a result, I worked in New Zealand and Australia, as a football club doctor for Sunderland and then Hartlepool, as an LMC member, as a practice-based commissioning board member and as a columnist for Doctor magazine and now Pulse. I’m happily married and I have three fine teenage sons.

So why am I baling out now to go part-time?

The mantle of general practitioner, which 18 years ago I willingly took on, is now drilling out my soul.

Under pressure

When I started out, four of us could cover 8,000 patients and still have an afternoon off. These days, the same number of patients demand twice as many appointments and we have twice as many doctors in the practice. The demand is relentless.

For seven years now, the money that I can take home has remained exactly the same. However, the amount I have to send back has basically doubled.

This year it is 55%.

There is no such tax rate, so how am I paying it? My accountants are opaque on the subject, other than assuring me I have to cough up.

In three weeks’ time I’m turning the tap off. I‘m just not prepared to bow to these absurd rules, this abuse of my public duty. In 25 years I have had literally one-and-a-half days off sick – the afternoon of my cardioversion and the day after to recover (and even then I felt guilty about not going in, even though the blisters from the burns were adhering to my shirt).

Modern-day medicine as a career? Piss off. I’m like a spurned lover. You could have had me for life, if you’d treated me right. But you haven’t.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland