It’s time to come clean: hello (coughs, stands up awkwardly to face the group), I’m a part-time female GP. Who would own up to that after we’ve been blamed for the apparent demise of primary care, first by Merion Thomas in the Daily Mail and now Dominic Lawson in The Times.
Apparently I’m bringing the NHS to its already-arthritic knees, almost single-handedly, in a puff of pink eyeshadow and a swipe of my pricey handbag bought with my bloated salary paid for by hard-working people’s taxes. Women, apparently, can’t wait to rev up their ovaries, drop a couple of sprogs and working one morning a week for the next 30 years while they spend the rest of the week lounging around putting the icing on cupcakes and draining the NHS dry.
But hang on – here’s the thing right. I don’t have any children. Can it be true? Maybe I dropped one at the bottom of my visit bag. Nope – I just checked, I definitely don’t have one. Yet I’m a lazy, self-centered, part-time female GP who apparently can’t be arsed to do more.
So what do I do with my time? Well, one day a week I have a regular, salaried job (I got home at 8.45 pm yesterday). Then I do more clinical sessions there if they need me or if not, I’ll do 3 or 4 locum sessions somewhere else and then of course, there’s out of hours which is up to 11.30 pm or else at the weekend. (For your information, Dominic, out of hours is popular with women in our area because doing nights is the best way for them to spend time with their kids).
That’s still part-time, so what’s left? Well, there’s politics, regulation and education. So I’m an appraiser (doctors have to keep vast portfolios of evidence now in order to practice because the government and public want it safer).
I also work for the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), because the government decided that GPs should commission health services. Did you think we would just fit that in between the 10 minute slots for the patients?
And you’d presumably like me to be up to date instead of just googling everything so most of us are doing several hours of education per week so we can inform you the best that we can. (You didn’t just want us to be there to refer you everywhere, did you?).
The other factor, quietly acknowledged amongst many GPs is that the job has become too intense to do clinical work full time. Think of the migration of the wildebeast across the Serengeti in the morning when you open the front door and you’ll know what I mean.
Long days, dealing with patients without a break (we do phone calls, prescriptions, visits and action hospital letters if we close in the middle of the day) and then you have what it’s like. Imaging sitting with your bum on boiling oil all day – you have to be superhuman to do 10 clinical sessions these days.
Indemnity cover costs are also rising so fast that some GPs have to limit the number of clinical sessions. Otherwise they would be actually be paying to go into work. Ironically, costs are increasing because the public are becoming more litiginous and lawyers fancy having a go – even the evidence points towards primary care getting safer.
So that’s it: female GPs are ruining the NHS because they’re swamped with regulation, politics, paperwork, unprecedented demand and a handful can’t even afford what it costs to do into work. Oh, and women do normal things that they do in other jobs, like have children, take maternity leave and work part time for a few years. Yet it’s convenient to blame women for the ailings of the NHS.
Who next to have a pop at? Nurses, midwives, cleaners, phlebotomists, receptionists or all the other jobs that are traditionally female?
Only 11% of surgical consultants are female but are we blaming male surgeons for the long wait for elective procedures? It seems that men are not in the same line for the kicking. Perhaps those who criticize are just a little bit afraid of the boys? The NHS has huge problems but the staff that prop it up through goodwill are not one of them.