Stressed GP reveals why she quit after pressures of the NHS left her ‘broken’

GP quits to become fashion designer after being “broken” by long shifts, phone appointments and so much stress she’d leave work shaking

A GP has quit to become a fashion designer after being “broken” by long shifts, phone appointments and so much stress she’d leave work shaking.

Linda Thomas blamed pressures on GP services, including forcing doctors to assess patients over the phone before granting them appointments, for her decision to quit after 16 years in the profession.

She says “political interference” has driven the NHS to breaking point.

Linda’s story is not unique , she says.

Figures show GPs and nurses are dropping out of the health service in greater numbers.

The number of full-time equivalent GPs fell by 1,193 in the year up to October 2017, compared to a drop of 97 the year before, according to NHS Digital.

In October 2017, there were 33,302 in England, compared to 34,495 the year before.

“Politicians use the NHS for their own political gain, and it’s horrific,” Linda said.

The married mum, who trained in the 90s, has taken her career in a completely different direction and become an eco-fashion designer.

She said: “I had to leave while I could still be the kind of doctor I wanted to be, and give patients the attention they deserved.

“If I’d stayed, I would have had to become a different type of doctor. I would be broken after a long shift.

“Sometimes I’d come home shaking. GPs are under such particular pressure – we are talking about a system that’s systematically breaking down GPs.

“These are some incredibly dedicated and talented people, yet I don’t know anyone who is planning to stay in general practice in the long term.”

On her busiest days, Linda would have back-to-back 10-minute appointments for six hours with just two 20-minute admin slots, which would be used for over-running appointments.

Speaking from her home in Bristol, Linda said: “If politicians want to retain the NHS, they have to change the fundamental systems in place at the moment.

“The system is not set up for flexibility and it is already at maximum capacity.

“It needs to be generally running at less than capacity so that when you get a crisis, you have the leeway.

“You need extra capacity for the flu crisis, or so you can say ‘this person who has just come in, their husband died last week and they are at breaking point, and I need to give them an hour of my time, not ten minutes’.

“GPs are like stretched elastic bands.”

She added a change in attitude towards GPs was needed, saying: “I was never sat there drinking tea, thinking about an £100k income.

“When I am sat waiting to see my own doctor, or with a family member, and I see the doctor is running 20 minute late, I know they are running late because of the pressures they are under.”

Linda’s decision to speak out comes as the NHS is still reeling from its “worst ever” winter crisis, as it was described by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Ambulances were left queuing outside hospitals for hours as medics struggled to find beds for patients.

Talking about her own decision to leave the profession, she added: “For me it was me realising ‘this isn’t a healing environment anymore’.

“I really, really believe that we can’t be broken ourselves when we are trying to heal other people.

“Doctors are healers, and if I carried on, I wasn’t going to be able to be a healer anymore.

“I didn’t go into medicine to be a paper pusher or to think ‘how quickly can I get this person out of the door’.

“There is no such thing as a quick, easy patient.”

GPs are leaving the profession at an increasing rate because they feel “undervalued”, according to research by the University of Exeter Medical School released earlier this month. It found GPs are “fed up” with “unlimited demands” on them.

The Department of Health praised staff and said it was committed to hiring an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020.

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