I’m Ben, I’m a fourth year medical student and I’m currently undertaking a six-week placement in both general practice and commissioning, shadowing Dr Jonathan Griffiths. To aid in my learning, I’m going to be writing a weekly reflection. I am hoping these posts give you some idea what the working day of a general practice doctor is like and also a viewpoint on how the NHS works from a medical student perspective.
Sitting down in my first lecture at medical school, I was excited. Head filled with dramatic dreams of saving the life of a man rushed into A and E after a heart attack; or removing a cancer from a woman who would die otherwise. So you can imagine my bemusement as we are told that half of us will become GPs. General practice seemed a slow, repetitive, dull occupation to my 18-year-old self. If I knew then that in three years time I would be extremely interested in general practice and saw it as a probable career pathway I would be shocked; but here I am. Choosing out of every speciality to shadow a GP in a self-design placement.
In general practice you truly never know what’s going to come through that door; that’s the beauty of it. However, you also never know whether what’s coming through the door is an appropriate or inappropriate use of your time. With the general practice doctor often being the first port of call for most people when any ache or pain strikes, any worry is seeded, or advice is needed; but often seeing another healthcare professional is more suitable.
I’ll give you a personal example: I was 14 years old, playing football for my local team. I was a central midfielder, and a keen Liverpool fan and wanted to be just like Steven Gerrard. I found myself on the edge of the area with the ball bouncing towards me and I put all my effort into smashing the ball into the top of the net. I scored, but in doing so managed to pull a muscle in my leg. I was substituted off and after discussion with my Dad we decided we would go to the doctors to get it sorted. Fortunately for me, my mum is a physio and upon returning home after the game she said there was no need to go to the doctors and she could sort it out herself – she gave me exercises to do and within a couple of weeks I was as good as new.
All a GP would’ve done is examine my leg and then refer me to physiotherapy. I knew I hadn’t broken any bones but still both my Dad and I straight away saw the doctor as the ‘go to guy’. Some GP practices now offer self-referral to physiotherapy services. This is a fantastic service and will save the NHS a huge amount of money if patients utilise this.
I guess in my first post I just wanted to highlight how it’s important for patients to think about what they are hoping to achieve from a consultation. If they’ve developed chest pain on exercise, or they’ve had a cough for a worrying period of time a GP is certainly the correct person to see. But if they’re just worried about a little ache somewhere and don’t know why it’s there maybe the 111 service is more appropriate and can ease your worry as much as a GP would? Or like me, if you’ve overstretched a muscle perhaps a physiotherapist is going to give you a better outcome than a GP?
The NHS is currently under serious financial pressure and this first week has made me realise that its not just those in power that will decide whether the NHS will come through this and give a better service. The whole population of patients has a significant say in whether the NHS can become a more efficient healthcare system.
Guest Blog by Ben Tyler, 4th Year Medical Student at Sheffield University.