Monday, 22 March 2010

A night visit


I did a night visit a few days ago. It felt nostalgic. It was the first such visit I have undertaken to one of my own patients (other than a few for the out of hours service a some years ago) since 1996...when everything changed.

Answering the phone-a mobile with a gentle ring-at 1.30am, getting dressed and off in my car for the 15 minutes along lonely country rounds was strangely satisfying (when I first entered practice in 1979 our bedside phone had a very loud ring with no option for quietening). I was greeted by a familiar, although now saddened, family who had cared for a wife and mother throughout a long illness. Thankfully her truly terminal days were very short and she died comfortably with a syringe driver administering her settling medication (when did they come into general practice usage?).

I stayed a while and we reminisced about their loved one. I declined a cup of tea knowing that at my age that would mean a another night visit of a different kind. I did my best to comfort and left them. I was home and back to sleep in just over one hour.

It was good. It was right and I would gladly do it again. They knew me and I believe trusted me and I just didn't feel like handing over this final medical contact to a stranger. But for all my nostalgia I would struggle with the old system of regular on-call and night visits followed by a normal surgery. The day time is just so incredibly busy. It really is non stop for anything from 10-12 hours a day. Having said that I would be willing to go back to the old system if only we could have smaller list sizes.

The government (and The Daily Mail) have it in for GPs-I wonder what the future holds for family practice in the UK in years to come.

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