“I am sorry”: Burnout, bad day or normal general practice?

Dr S Vashisht qualified in Cardiff, trained in London and is a GP in Nottingham. It will be our 30 year re-union soon and I will be travelling to Cardiff to reminisce with my classmates of 1985. That Class of 1985 is now full of fifty-something-year-old doctors. Thirty years is a long time in medicine. I can remember that as a newly trained GP, my non-medical friends would tell me their tales of experience with the health service and with their GPs.  “I have phoned my GP for an appointment and I have been given an appointment in two weeks’ time. Two weeks’ time! I am ill now, and I could be dead in two weeks” one friend told me. I tried in vain to explain about the system of appointments. My friend didn’t understand that most flu-like illnesses are self-limiting. She felt unwell and wanted to feel better as soon as possible. Surely her GP should be able to prescribe something that would make her feel better? Thirty years later I have a similar conversation with many patients. They do not want to take time off work, because of the strict monitoring of ‘sick time’ off in most work places. They have been unwell for three, five or seven days already. I examine them and tell them that it may take up to 3 weeks to get better...

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