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How I survive a monthly phone-in on BBC radio

Dr Vicky Blackburn - online

Name Dr Vicky Blackburn


Age 45


Location Stroud, Gloucestershire


Role GP advisor to BBC Radio Gloucestershire 


How did you get your job?

BBC Radio Gloucestershire rang me following a recommendation from a colleague, Dr Dawn Harper from TV’s Embarrassing Bodies. She got too busy for the slot as her TV career took off.

What are the main tasks of an average week?

My radio work involves me reading press releases and newspapers. I then look up and research any items that we plan to discuss on air. This takes about one to two hours per show. I currently do one show per month.

Without naming the figure, how much remuneration do you get for this work?

I do not charge for my radio work but I do charge for work that comes directly from it such as teaching sessions or public speaking. Remuneration for this is variable – it depends to who and how many I am speaking and whether I turn down locum or other private work to do it.

How many hours a week does the role take up, and if you still practice how many sessions do you do alongside the role?

My radio work sits well with my private GP work of one session per week.

I also do seven sessions within the NHS as a GP partner and one session per month at the local CCG.

What’s the most common assumption GPs make about your role?

That it is paid well and that I know what the callers are going to ask before the show (I don’t).

I did it because I have always enjoyed educating and communicating health matters to people. I also believe that the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, should educate more about health and not leave it to the sensationalist TV shows.

What’s the best thing about your role?

I enjoy the spontaneous nature of a live monthly phone-in.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?

Having to think quickly and vocalise a sensible response within a few seconds.

What’s the hardest thing about combining your role with a career in general practice?

Finding the time to do it.

What’s been the highlight of your whole career so far?

I really enjoy educating young people about their health and found going into schools and talking to teenagers about emotional well-being very rewarding.

How would your patients describe you?

Hopefully as a good listener. Media work has helped me communicate better with patients. I have learnt to formulate answers to their questions which are snappy and easy to understand.

What’s the worst thing a patient’s ever said to you?

That they had been meaning to tell me about their breast lump months ago, but had been too embarrassed. This particular lady left it too late.

What’s the best piece of advice your GP trainer gave you?

Never be afraid to admit when you don’t know something and never be too proud to ask a colleague for advice.