Viewpoint - Peer support in a social setting

Need some talking therapy? An evening out with a GP pal is a great 'de-stresser'.

Dr Kalwij: peer support with a friend over a good meal is invaluable (Photograph: Author image)
Dr Kalwij: peer support with a friend over a good meal is invaluable (Photograph: Author image)

Thursday evening at 7.40pm: one more patient to see before the surgery closes at 8pm.

I feel like I am running for my life on a hamster wheel, seeing patients and dealing with administration in perpetuity.

The wheel is taking on surreal proportions. It is starting to fill up the whole room and going even faster.

I am given some extra telephone messages to deal with and more prescriptions to sign. And will I please see an emergency? My stomach is grumbling louder and louder and then my mobile rings...

The caller is a colleague and good friend from a nearby practice. 'Seb, are you still free tonight?' Our 'peer support meeting' - as we call our regular evenings at local restaurants - was already pencilled in. But, as so often in life, there are competing demands on my time.

I call my wife who agrees to look after our kids so I am free to go out. We started our peer support meetings years ago and we still meet once or twice a month in local restaurants.

My friend knows a great place in Surrey Quays, only one stop away for both of us on the new bit of the East London Line. Surrey Quays on a cold and wintry night looks forlorn.

The streets are deserted.

Some leaves on the pavement swirl up with each gust of wind. I open the restaurant door and instantly the cloak of gloom and doom is lifted from my shoulders. There is even a jazz trio playing in the corner near the door.

Sharing experience
The main topic we discuss this time is moving my practice's clinical IT system from one version to another - something I hope will improve efficiency and save time.

My friend's practice made the transfer several months ago and it is good to share our experiences.

I had recently been on a child protection level 3 course and we discuss one of the scenarios from the course in which a 15-year-old girl comes to see the GP to discuss travel vaccinations. Her family is planning to take her to Pakistan.

You ask her if she is looking forward to this family reunion. After a silence, she says that she is not. She is worried that she may have to get married to someone.

She also asks the GP to give her a contraceptive injection. The last thing she wants is to start a family.

We discuss the GP's role in this and that of social services.

Next morning, I look back on a great evening out. A good meal and sharing some stories is a great form of peer support.

Why not give it a try?

  • Dr Kalwij is a GP in south-east London

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