Introducing GPs Anonymous

photoPeter Aird is a GP in Bridgwater, Somerset.

Is it just me or is being a GP increasingly being portrayed as something for which one ought to be ashamed? If so, then perhaps we should consider if we need some help.

With the latest suggestion that patients will be able to bypass their GP and refer themselves for cancer investigations, perhaps it’s time to face up to an uncomfortable truth. We’ve been told enough times by enough people – perhaps the implication is true: we’re not up to the job. It’s all the fault of we GPs.

We mustn’t go on denying it any longer – convincing ourselves we’re OK – after all, until we acknowledge our problem how can we expect anything to be done to help us. We will just go on making everyone’s life a misery.

We all know how embarrassing GP behaviour can be – you know the kind of thing, spoiling everything for everybody on Christmas Day by turning up at a family gathering rather than opening our surgeries as normal – and thereby compelling people to waste hours in A&E departments with their sore throats and itchy toes. And then, of course, there is the wilful ignoring of our patients who clearly have cancer whilst, at the same time, putting an unnecessary burden on secondary care services by admitting patients to hospital just for the fun of it.

So let’s all face up to our problem. I’ll go first by introducing myself:

My name is Peter – and I’m a General Practitioner.

There that wasn’t so bad -to be honest it’s a relief to have it out in the open – I hope you can find it in your heart to accept someone as shameful as me – after all the hurt I’ve caused. If you’re similarly afflicted, come and join me – I’m setting up ‘GPs Anonymous’ in the hope that together we can support all of us who are stricken with the affliction that is ‘being a GP’.

But perhaps you’re still unconvinced you have a problem. Can I urge you then to ask yourselves these four screening questions? Answer two in the affirmative and you may have a problem – answer ‘Yes’ to all four and you’re in real trouble.

C – have you ever felt you wanted to cut down how much general practice you do?

A – have you ever been annoyed by criticism of your actions as a GP?

G – have you ever felt guilty for what you have done as a GP?

E – have you ever started early in the morning doing your ‘GP thing’?

Extra phone lines will be installed should demand for this new service prove overwhelming.

So why do people fall into the destructive behaviour patterns of general practitioners? Well there seems to be a genetic component in some cases – seeing your parents behaving as GPs seems to predispose some to follow a similar path – though, thankfully this is becoming less common. Others experience a little bit of general practice early on in their medical career and naively imagine that it’s a good thing – something they can control. After all, just one attempt at a ten minute consultation can’t hurt can it? But before long they’re out of control – only in it for the extortionate pay, long hours of ‘off duty’ and the kicks one gets from the systematic mismanagement of those who thought they were there to help.

It’s a tragic condition but, with the arrival of ‘GPs Anonymous’ at last there is some real hope for change. Perhaps together we can rid the country of the blight that GP’s have become.

And then won’t everyone be happy?

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