I’m a bit late posting this article here, as it went out in Pulse magazine back in February, but is still just as relevant.
I debated that we should not have to be more positive, or less than fully transparent about the crises that are occurring in general practice at the moment.
For those of you who don’t have access to the article, I have posted my part of the debate below:
As doctors, we are taught from an early stage that probity is as important as our clinical ability. The most basic level of my argument lies on this principle; if GPs were to be dishonest about the reality of their working lives, this would surely jeopardise our professional integrity, and I, for one, would not be able to tick that ‘No’ box in the probity section of my appraisal.
In the same vein, we are taught that any decision made by a patient needs to be fully informed. In other words, the implications need to be comprehended before they make a decision that could affect their life, even if this is negative or difficult. Shouldn’t this principle spill into our role as mentors and trainers? Would it not be unethical for us to lure medical students into a very difficult way of life without informing them of the reality?
Even without these ethical and moral implications, there is a bigger issue that underpins all this. General practice, and perhaps the NHS as we know it, is on the verge of collapse. GP trainees should be taught more about medical politics – we have little chance of changing things for the better unless we are aware of how to do so. And before a GP reaches the point of wanting to get involved in politics, they need to appreciate the problems and the impact they will have on their professional and their personal lives. We are all very aware of the late finishes in the evening, the sleepless nights and the anxiety that come from working as a GP. Why don’t we equip our trainees with knowledge and skills to combat the issues we face?
So, I am arguing for honesty and transparency, but this doesn’t mean we can’t shout about the good bits. There are reasons why we are all still here, fighting for a better service and a better working life. Whether it is the intriguing case that leads to a satisfying diagnosis, or the wonderful relationships that can be formed with our colleagues and patients, there is something worth fighting for. So let’s be honest with our trainees, tell them how hard it is, but encourage them to help us change things for the better.