Zara Aziz: Our workload has become almost insurmountable

Recently I suffered from a rather severe case of swine flu. My husband brought it home from the local hospital where he works. The signs were all there that this virus was serious - he never gets sick and absolutely nothing can keep him away from work and food. But on this occasion he was off sick for two days and declining food.

'Man flu,' I scoffed.

But my fate was to be much worse. I became fevered and delirious and my head seemed to be in a vice. I felt like I was at death's door and, as I remained bed-bound for seven days, had ample opportunity to sympathise with patients and reflect on life. I would recommend this sort of reflection to everyone (without the flu bit of course, and preferably in a spa or holiday resort!).

Like many of my friends and family my life has become a series of goals moving from one to the next. Goals in themselves are not a bad thing. My husband dreams of climbing Mount Everest but most of my thoughts and aspirations revolve around work.

Work is just one part of our lives as GPs, but for so many of us it has become so much more than that. In the quest to be competent, empathetic, efficient, innovative and so much more for our patients, our practices and our staff, we seem to be forgetting about ourselves.

With increasing cuts to the NHS and a hotchpotch of health services, our tasks are becoming almost insurmountable. We are operating a racing conveyor belt which works only for a while until the individual or system ceases to function.

I hear of talk, but see no endpoint in sight. But there are no two ways about it, the intensity at which we work has to stop - it is neither healthy nor sustainable. And if no one else will then we should come up with a solution.

As my Mum put it when I emerged from my sick-bed: 'You have to be kind to yourself. Everything else follows.'

  • Dr Aziz is a GP in Bristol

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