Letters, calls and emails: Holistic approach is what gives us meaning

Dear Editor

Something important is being lost from general practice.

There is no doubt that much of clinical care since the new contract has improved but what has happened to holistic care?

Holistic care includes mind, body and spirit in the diagnosis and treatment; compassion is as important as reaching targets.

Holistic care is when people do matter, where we have time to listen to patients and be interested in their lives, time to build a relationship and offer a high standard of continuing care for them and their family.

It may be old fashioned but many of us came into medicine to help people, and it is the vocational values that underpin that attitude that give meaning to our work. Without that purpose doctors begin to suffer from stress and burn-out.

Holistic care means that practitioners matter too. We need to look after ourselves, not only to be an example to our patients, but for our own well-being and that of our families. How many of us fail to take time off when we are feeling unwell? And how many of us have a place to unload all the emotional stress that patients put on us? After all, our job description is dealing with the suffering of others.

Finally holistic care is caring for our communities and that starts with our own communities of family and at the workplace. Where do we find support and give it to others? Although many of us work in teams with lots of people around, it can be a very isolating job emotionally and spiritually.

We need time and space and a listening ear to share our concerns particularly when things go wrong or we make mistakes.

General practice is a great job and is very rewarding but it can only continue to be so if we continue to practise as if people really do matter: patients, practitioners and communities.

Dr Craig K Brown, Rustington, West Sussex.

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