Every GP knows the importance of being straightforward. But what about away from the consultation room, on social media and with other doctors?
I’m a partner at Argyle Medical Group in Pembroke Dock, west Wales. We’re a large practice, with 22,500 patients, but there are currently only nine GPs, which works out at about seven and a half FTE.
Because of this, I recently appealed on Twitter for any prospective Pembrokeshire GPs to join us. But I also concluded that honesty is the best policy, so didn’t hold back from including that we’re heavily undermanned and the hours, frankly, stink.
But telling the truth doesn’t mean the positives don’t get a look-in – I also praised the genuineness of the patients, our great staff and the fact that you can make such a difference here.
The Tweet had hundreds of responses, and I hope the message came across – our team, of about 70, including nurses and admin/management staff, work really well together.
But staff numbers have dwindled over the last few years, as people retire and leave for various reasons – life happens. When I started, there were 13 or 14 GPs, and everything seemed ok. The gradual departures, however, had a knock-on effect on workloads becoming harder to manage. And I know this problem isn’t unique to our practice, and is actually evidenced throughout the country.
You’re picking up the extra work from everyone else, because that’s what GPs often do
Deputy chair of GPC Wales Dr Peter Horvath-Howard recently said: ‘This is by no means an isolated case. General practice in Wales remains under intense pressure and as a result, we’re increasingly hearing of practices being unable to recruit. BMA Cymru has repeatedly warned of the growing gap between the demand placed upon general practice and its capacity…’
On top of this, locum calls have declined in our area. We’re isolated geographically, and there aren’t locums available to be called upon – whereas six years ago, competition was rife. I also remember that when I started, it was generally difficult to find a partnership, but now we’re just desperately looking for GPs. It’s fine when all the GPs are in, but it’s when you have unexpected absences, such as people off sick, that the pressures kick in.
The minute you have another couple of doctors in, that critical mass is taken off and suddenly you’re all leaving on time, the workload is split equally and that balance is redistributed. It never used to be a schedule of 8am til late, but that’s what happens when numbers decrease. You’re picking up the extra work from everyone else, because that’s what GPs often do.
I’m not prolific on Twitter, but I tweeted this because I’d finished work late and sat there left with the cleaners thinking ’I want to get out of the office because I’ve been here til late, it stinks a little bit, I’m meant to be part-time and I’m doing a full-time job.’
Recruitment in general practice in the UK is often even trickier in areas like mine, which, as well as being isolated, is relatively deprived. This can bring its own challenges, but I think we’re generally very fortunate – I love my job and where I work. So while I’m not going to sugarcoat the reality, I really do hope to hear from you if you’re a GP in the area.
Dr Dave Wilson is a GP partner at Argyle Medical Group in Pembrokeshire, west Wales