Time is the enemy. Ten-minute slots run over as I greet you, listen, ask questions, formulate a plan. I may examine you, if you can unbutton your shirt and talk at the same time. If you are 90, with four layers of underwear, I know the game is up.
I’ve been a GP for 20 years. Many patients are now friends. Daily, I am humbled by the stoicism I witness, and exasperated by parents who bring in a child with a cold. I am bored with being vilified in the press – for missing cancers, overprescribing antibiotics or being unavailable for routine matters at weekends. A 12-hour working day is the norm, filled with activities you do not see. Patients phone and email, and replies must be accurate and safe. We do home visits, mostly to the frail elderly with multiple, complex problems. Administrative tasks fill many hours, and that’s before the other agendas imposed upon us.
We need to stop smokers from smoking and drinkers from drinking. As for tackling the obesity crisis, where did I leave my magic wand? Mostly, I am thinking it would be great to get through the day without any major hold-ups or cock-ups.
If I keep you waiting, remember I’m just doing my best for those ahead of you. I may be helping an older lady dress, or a new mum package her baby into a car seat. More often than not, I am waiting for someone to stop crying before I turf them out, or I may be breaking bad news as sensitively as I can. You will never know. And when it’s eventually your turn, I will do the same for you.