Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Zahra Malik

General practice is a very attractive specialty for me, since it acts as the gatekeeper to the rest of the medical world.

Zahra Malik: 'There is a great risk of losing the essence of what general practice really is.'
Zahra Malik: 'There is a great risk of losing the essence of what general practice really is.'

Every single day brings with it new challenges, drawing upon every single aspect of medical school training. After all those years of hard work, it will surely be time worth spent. There is enough room to work independently, even go on to develop areas of interest, but to feel safe in the knowledge that you are surrounded by a dedicated and supportive team.

General practice holds the unique privilege of complete strangers choosing to come and see you and giving you a glimpse into their life. It is an absolute honour and one which I hope will always serve to remind me to do my best for each patient.

To be able to build up a long-term relationship, not just with the single patient, but often their extended family and even seeing their children grow up, is completely unrivalled in any other specialty. It allows you to support someone not just through the difficult times, but also the happy times.

Great risk of losing the essence of what general practice really is

I love the idea that patients can book an appointment with you to tell you how much better they feel since they last saw you. This makes it an extremely rewarding profession and these nuggets of happiness can help to pull you through other more emotionally taxing times.

To be the main point of contact or coordinator of care throughout a patient’s chronic illness or investigations into a diagnosis ensures a completely holistic care approach. This stability is so important for the patient, especially at times of uncertainty and without the constant psychological hand-holding of a GP, I am sure it would lead to much poorer outcomes.

In the light of huge upcoming changes to the structure of general practice, I think it is now more than ever that I know I want to become a GP. The very realistic possibility of the upheaval of the service as we know it, with a drive towards an integrated care approach and losing GPs as independent contractors, there is a great risk of losing the essence of what general practice really is.

Merging of practices and becoming a contracted specialty could lead to a depersonalisation of the service, but these imminent changes should not discourage people from becoming GPs, rather we should rally together and strive to hold onto our principles to ensure that they are implemented alongside any change.

I feel becoming a GP will best allow me to keep the core principles of the NHS and its founder Aneurin Bevan at heart. To put patients at the heart of everything you do is much easier where holistic and long-term care is encouraged, rather than on a busy ward round. And despite further pressures and demands put on GPs by the government, I feel general practice is best placed to work across these organisational boundaries in the best interests of patients and communities.

  • Zahra Malik is a fourth year medical student at Nottingham University.

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