One of the most important things I wanted to discover whilst campaigning for the seat of Cheadle in Greater Manchester for Labour was whether the public still has respect for its family practitioner.
Because, in truth, that’s one of the core reasons I decided to stand in the first place.
The erosion of respect shown to the GP, and indeed all healthcare professionals, by this Government has caused me great distress, and in particular, the haemorrhaging of nursing and other key staff since Brexit was first mooted.
That and, of course, the privatisation of NHS services by stealth, which will see the destruction of a free-at-the-point-of-contact health service if we continue on the current trajectory.
I believe that we face two choices in life. We either accept our lot, or we turn and fight.
And when one is a figure of leadership in the community (which I believe the GP still is), it’s our duty to engage and galvanise people and put their issues at the heart of the political agenda.
We’ve taken a Hippocratic oath to serve and do no harm, and that’s an ethos which should pervade in politics, too.
At the hustings and on the doorstep, I’ve learned these nuggets.
The people of this country are massively thankful to the over-worked employees that staff our primary, acute and community healthcare posts.
They’re also deeply concerned about the NHS’s future.
The current incumbents of Government, however, are massively detached from this reality.
At a hustings event hosted by the Churches Together group, my Conservative opponent told voters that she didn’t recognise a world where people were worried about the future of their local hospital. I told her that she needed to get out more!
Other debates and events have revealed a frankly frightening schism between current Government thinking and the reality of life in our health service, too.
When one is a figure of leadership in the community (which I believe the GP still is), it’s our duty to galvanise people
Is this because those in Westminster never use our NHS, preferring private healthcare – or are they simply so bombarded with Brexit, that other issues (including austerity) have simply passed them by?
The platform I’m standing on is one of advocacy and leadership.
As a GP, I’m regularly asked to intervene on behalf of my patients and left to plug the gaps left by dwindling social care services.
That means I may be required to do anything from write a letter to a school about persistent absence, to appearing at an employee tribunal.
We should, of course, be practising medicine instead – but at least this puts us in a unique position as advocates.
We also recognise that so many of the physical illnesses we treat have, at their root, the stresses and strains of modern life. Debt begetting anxiety. Lack of work meaning low self-esteem, and this promoting addictions and unhealthy lifestyles. We see the link. We have the skills to solve it and we, as practitioners of health, have the compassion to listen and act.
And so I see it as perfectly natural that a GP should want to become an MP.
To protect those with whom they serve in making the NHS one of the greatest institutions our country has created.
Moreover, to engage with people, sometimes at their lowest ebb, and make their lives better, more healthy and more hopeful.
For this family doctor, the notion of the GP as ambassador and advocate extended – even unto the palace of Westminster!
Dr Zahid Chauhan is a GP partner in Greater Manchester. He’s standing for the seat of Cheadle for Labour and is a campaigner for health equalities. Learn more about his work at https://www.zahidchauhan.co.uk/ and on Twitter @chauhanzahid