I now work a 12-hour day, but it is the intensity of work which has been the greatest change of all. Patient problems are often less physical and more psychological or social – it is the inability as a GP to help patients with social care, housing shortages, debt or even lack of food that can be the most wearing.
Perhaps it is experience, cynicism or even burnout but I feel this more acutely now than I did five years ago.
My working day is not long enough for all that I need to complete just to keep my head above water. I also go in on my day off to do more admin - if I don’t, my working day would stretch even longer. My children are in bed and usually asleep when I come home - I play no role in their lives when I go to work.
Yet this is the reality for so many GPs. The RCGP campaign that was launched a few weeks ago to encourage GP practices to allow doctors rest breaks seemed implausible. It is not GP practices who stop us from having a break; it is the sheer demand for healthcare. Not to mention the mandatory meetings around CQC preparation, admission avoidance, public health or CCG projects.
NHS England in its GP Forward View talked of tackling burnout, stress and GP retention, but in the same breath mentioned 8 till 8 wrap-around care. We cannot even recruit GPs for existing vacancies let alone anything so fanciful as seven-day access.
Apparently we are also ‘ideally placed’ to do most things: be it to help patients with their benefits or spot signs of terrorism. Really? I doubt that I can add any more into my packed day.
It seems there is no genuine desire on the part of the government to reduce our workload so that we can practise safe family medicine; all evidence is to the contrary.
With no ceiling on this and with little hope of an adequate rescue package, we have little choice but to ballot on industrial action. For ourselves and our patients.
- Dr Aziz is a GP in Bristol