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Uneasy truce

Primary Care Blues

Cornelius Rubeus

Sunday, 06 January 2013

Dan_Brett_Blog_4thJanuary2013.jpgIn years gone by, the week between Christmas and New Year has been fairly quiet work-wise. Like the Western Front around Christmas 1914 during World War One, an unofficial ceasefire was in place between ‘us’ - the battle weary GPs, and ‘them’ - the great unwashed in the waiting room. A truce would be called to trench warfare, seasonal greetings exchanged and, on occasion, patients would even come bearing gifts.

In 1915, the ceasefires over Christmas were less well observed and by 1916, after the unprecedentedly bloody battles of the Somme and Verdun, together with the beginning of widespread poison gas use, soldiers on both sides increasingly viewed the other side as less than human, and no more Christmas truces were sought.

It is not entirely clear why there has been no let up over Christmas this year on our GP Western Front. What is apparent to me, is that in our increasingly multicultural, religiously diversifying society, the symbolic moment of peace and humanity, represented by our unofficial Christmas truce, is officially off the menu.

Whilst some of the increased work is explainable by high rates of the dreaded norovirus and other winter respiratory illnesses, other consultations have been of a routine nature – the like of which would not have occurred in years gone by. Minor ailments and illnesses, which could / should / would have been self-managed in the past, or treated at home with advice from mothers / aunts / grandmothers, are all beating a hasty path to my door.

Self-care is not really a common trait I recognise in the new 24/7, instant gratification-requiring society we now live in.

Extended families and communities, supporting each other, no longer help to quieten the clamour for GP appointments. Globalisation means that I see patients from all corners of the world. In just the last week I have treated patients from the UK, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Canada and the USA – all with very different health beliefs and illness behaviours; all stretching our capacity beyond its natural elastic limits.

To finish on a positive note - most, if not quite all the patients and families treated have at least been more grateful for their festive dose of seasonal GP cheer than at other times of the year.

The world is changing and I guess we must too.

Happy New Year one and all!

Picture source: Wikipedia.

Author's Image

Cornelius Rubeus

Dr Rubeus is a hardworking, jobbing GP who trained in the North of England and now works in an inner city setting. He feels passionate about the changes affecting primary care and is not afraid to voice his views. He has his patient’s best interests at heart and wants General Practice to remain as the bedrock of the NHS for years to come.
Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470