Forgotten to remember

A somewhat political plea wot I made to some important folk earlier this week…

I was worried about speaking today. I was worried that I would cry, or be too political, and so I thank those of you who have paved the way for me already today. I wasn’t going to say anything, but then I thought “sod it, it isn’t often that a doctor like me gets to address a room full of people who are able to change the system within which we work” and so I wrote these words in Trafalgar Square. (As a complete aside, and as a proud Mancunian, I am always genuinely disappointed in myself when I come to London. It is just so exciting!)

Imagine a deep intake of breath and the need to hold back tears…

 My story is about what has gone wrong in General Practice.

For a long time, I thought that it was just me, that I was weak, that I am not resilient enough BUT that is simply not true. It is the system that is broken and I defy anyone to ‘stay resilient’ indefinitely under the workplace pressures we are currently facing in Primary Care.

Two years ago, in order to focus on my academic work, I began my preparations for a sabbatical. I am the Lead for Ethics & Law at Manchester Medical School and that is a full-time job in itself.

A very difficult 12 months, in both my professional and my personal life, ensued.

A year ago, I left my practice (at the end of a 13 hour day) for a ‘year off’. My family think that description is the world’s biggest joke; I worked harder last year than ever before! On that same day, a year ago, my burnout score was 68/75. This equates to ‘you are at severe risk of burnout-do something about this urgently’. I knew that I was burned out. I did not need numerical confirmation. I did my score on purpose. I did my score to make sure that I did not rely on easy choices and easy solutions as I moved into my sabbatical year.

I was really pleased when, five months later, my score had dropped to 40/75. But this still meant ‘be careful’. Looking back now, it surprises me how long my recovery took.

This morning, on the train at 6am, my score was 24/75 (‘little sign’) and I think this simply means that I am awake, not fast asleep. This score is despite a pretty challenging and important situation that was still being resolved late into the evening the previous night.

Over that last five years, I have vicariously watched my patients’ lives devastated by Austerity. Carrying their pain became too much for me to bear. As you watch this film, please don’t pity me. I have a rich and varied life, meddling in DevoManc, having Twitter discos, inciting medical students and seeing a small number of patients once again. What I want, is for you to watch, and to remember, that my patients, devastated by Austerity, have one less GP who cares for them. And, whilst some of my colleagues are just about hanging on in there, many too are dropping like flies.