Over the past year the BBC has followed the daily routine of my general practice team at Baslow Health Centre for a documentary series called The Real Peak Practice. When my partner, Dr Abi Waterfall, and I initially agreed to take part in the short series the brief was to look at the impact of the NHS reforms on rural practices.
Every week we have a multi-disciplinary meeting (due to the cramped room in our small premises, the BBC struggled to film this…) where all the doctors, practice nurses, community nurses, community matron and care co-ordinator meet with representatives from social services, mental health, health visitors, a school nurse and a Macmillan nurse. Here we look at our palliative care list and share and discuss new diagnoses as well as patients causing us concern. Discussions around complex elderly and frail patients dominate the agenda as we try to support them in their wishes to stay at home in the light of social services’ budgetary cuts and lack of available care.
No matter how tired and frustrated we may get, these meetings always uplift us. They prove to be inspiring and we rally together to support one another, offering advice and solutions where needed.
The BBC has been great over the past year. The team filmed every day for the first couple of months and then came back at key moments throughout the year. At first it felt strange to have cameras following us around in our daily routines but we soon got used to it and so did our patients. In truth after the first few days we became unaware of the camera crew: they were very discrete and respectful.
We had one condition to being filmed: that they never interrupt a consultation. The team kept their promise and this means that everything you see is absolutely as it happens, and no one was made fun of or humiliated. We felt very safe with them. There were boundaries and they kept to them. Everything had to be accurate, and everything in real-time.
We also had the right to view the rough cut and edit it for any inaccuracies or issues with patient confidentiality. Sadly we were not allowed to refuse any cuts on the basis that ‘my bum looks big’ or ‘my hair looks dreadful’.
Patients were positive
The BBC took charge when it came to discussing filming with patients. Around half of them were happy to be filmed and were really positive about the experience. They were the real stars of the show, in particular the two incredible gentlemen who allowed the last weeks of their lives to be filmed. They both had their own good reasons for doing this and I sincerely hope that their ability to have a ‘good death’ at home will debunk a lot of the taboos and fear that lie out there.
What became very clear over the course of filming was that the big issues were common to primary care institutions across the UK. From an ever increasing workload with more and more elderly frail complex cases, to a diminishing workforce, massive budgetary cuts and increased bureaucracy, there are an abundance of eye opening matters that have remained unknown to the wider public. Hopefully, the show will help change this.
What really keeps us all going at Baslow Health Centre is the vision and passion shared by everyone at the surgery. We are all committed to providing a bespoke and individualised service to our patients, following them from cradle to grave.
Dr Louise Jordan is a GP in Bakewell, Derbyshire, and will feature in the upcoming series The Real Peak Practice, a two part documentary series coming up on BBC Two on 10 and 11 September. The hastag suggested is #TheRealPeakPractice