Doctors - our understanding of your plight

I quickly realised that I was practicing reactionary, knee-jerk prescribing medicine. I was treating numbers and blood results instead of my patients. I was focusing on guidelines and protocols instead of engaging with the patient at the other end of the table. “I have a pill for that, we can target your bloods and see how you get on with the medications..”

When the established diet and exercise advice and medication approach inevitably failed, there was equal frustration across both sides of the clinic table. There must be more to being a GP, I thought… if only I could find a way around my frustration…

Dr. Peter Foley, MBBS, MRCGPDr. Peter Foley, MBBS, MRCGP 

The above is from an enlightened GP contained in


I have just returned from a public conference (July 2017) about our world in transition, where are we headed as a global civilisation, and what can we as individuals do if we do not like the direction. I liked the theme emerging; one of self-responsibility, of how each one of us, by our actions or inactions, is influencing the trajectory.


There was one key note speaker, of three, a renowned gynaecologist. He was interesting and funny and to the point; had I been his patient I would have felt in safe hands. BUT today …


  1. He kept telling us how busy he was, how stressful his life was, holding down a job which seemingly                                                had him work in Scotland, England and abroad

  2. He talked of how 20% of the e-mails he gets are from NHS managers and all are demanding, with                                                               impossible deadlines, and unreasonable requests

  3. He talked of patients, that 90% in a given day would talk of anxiety, stress, anger, negativity – and                                                                    that that was what he overwhelmingly took home each day. And it’s true, negativity is like a poison                                                                  and has a way of getting to us unless we find ways to divest ourselves of it.

  4. He referenced that most targets doctors are given in the NHS are unrealistic and that the NHS                                                                                is now driven by targets, not patient needs – something I have always suspected

  5. He illustrated patient treatment requirements and how always is obliged by NHS managers to take                                                                    the cheapest option in treatment, not the one that has best chance of working

  6. He mentioned how he has a 72 hour week.


So am I meant to feel sorry for you, I was thinking?

Victim vs Victor thinking


His felt more like the voice of victim than of a victor. And this from someone

meant to inspire the audience.


And then he requested that we as patients think about our doctors as human

beings (as if we needed to be reminded) that we pay them respect, that we

think of how stressed they are and don’t have enough time to be with their

families. He mentioned that many don’t like going to work these days, and

that they work under a system that really is increasingly questionable and not

fit for purpose.

Just in case you are now wondering about your own doctor, their life, both

at home and at work, the video opposite with Dr Lissa Rankin

highlights what life can be like. And when I lie in a hospital bed and at 8am see

the same doctor who admitted me the previous day at 4pm, still on duty,

then I get it, I really get it. My empathic, intuitive, sensitive side goes out to you.

But I, the patient did not create the crazy systems in the present medical worlds.


So medical staff – if you want respect, you have to earn and give it. If you want our understanding, you have to give us understanding. If you want empathy, give us empathy. Equally, if we want your respect, we have to give it to you. If we want your understanding we have to give it.


I know I have so often been very empathic about the stresses my doctors were under. How could I fail to notice? My own GP, at every consultation, always tells me how he can’t wait to get home, he sits there with bitten nails, using humour as a mask. But it deflects from why I am there. It does not build a relationship. Why would I trust or confide in someone who simply sends out messages he does not want to be there and trots out well-rehearsed phrases like "eat less, walk more.."


Another tells me of his wife and baby waiting for him at home and how he will work not one minute longer in the day than he is required to  – and all this simply because I had two related issued I asked to discuss. And he goes on a rant. "You can only choose one!"


If you want me to be respectful of all the stresses you are under, then consider that sometimes, when I get to you as my GP, I have already been through umpteen NHS departments and got nowhere so you are my last point of call, you represent the NHS, and the NHS has singularly failed me.  By now, I am not into clever thinking that it is not your fault. Neither is it mine.


I know doctors that you have private lives and I understand the organisation in which you work is not as you would wish BUT….neither is it working for me.


Sometimes being understanding and empathic means we as patients are too busy being concerned for our doctors we don’t always stand up for what we want. “Oh, they’re busy. I don’t like to trouble them! It’s not that important.”


But listen doctors and nurses –

  1. I know that you may have signed up to go into medicine for honourable reasons – only to find out you’d be working in a crass system, but that is not of my doing have a choice to quit or quit moaning

  2. I did not ask you to go into the NHS. I am not responsible for your choice of profession!

  3. I did not vote for the targets governments lay down and unmercifully foist upon you

  4. I am an individual – so please don’t lump me by a generalisation of “all patients  ….”

  5. I am not responsible for the stress, anxiety, and negativity of other patients – neither are you. Only they can be responsible. But you alone are responsible for choosing your response to what they bring before you.

  6. I too have stresses and strains in my profession – but I take responsibility for how I deal with them; I don’t expect my clients to think about my circumstances and take pity upon me

  7. As a patient, I don’t decide you have to work 72 hours …why do you collude with a system that requires you to work such hours, perhaps dangerously affecting the lives of your patients?

  8. Why try to manipulate our thinking and lay a guilt trip on us?

  9. I did not create the present system or invent the limited bio-medical model and the bureaucratic systems within which it is administered. I have tried to influence change and I know how utterly impossible it is because the juggernauts that are Governments and the NHS plough on regardless, bleating right phrases like being -patient centred, when clearly the NHS is not, and politicians seem motivated only by attracting votes by promising wealth to the NHS and seem blind – deliberately so – to the need for a change in the medical model.


So yes, I’ll be understanding but I am not going to collude with you that you should put up with the system – either help to change it, get out, or find a different victor attitude to work within it. It's not all about more money for more resources. The system and the medical model has to change.


Stop laying a guilt trip on patients.


And politicians stop with the sound bite culture of phrases designed, also to make us feel guilty. Some of us DO have a positive experience with doctors, nurses, and the NHS – especially in A&E, but many do NOT. And many feel they have to put up or shut up.


A change is needed and it begins by listening not politicising. It begins by wider perspective thinking.











It takes me and YOU … you and ME.




Not defending our different sides.

Doctors get tired too ...
Dr Lissa Rankin
Mind Over Medicine

Let’s be honest


We all know medicine is in crisis, and that includes those who serve the sick and injured.


Many there are among them who suffer from medical training that does not equip them for the many chronic mystery conditions they now meet, or a system that does not equip them explore the cause of illness but to focus, instead, on symptoms. And then there’s the issue of lack of time for proper self-care, unmet physical and emotional needs, scraping to make ends meet and eat from food banks, compassion fatigue, burnout, chronic illness, alcohol addiction, depression, stress and anxiety, broken or stressed relationships, loneliness, and PTSD let alone proper help to address the spiritual, to integrate the emotional and spiritual dimensions of life..


Surely it’s time for medical staff to put their feet down and say “We will not compromise our integrity and put our patients or ourselves at risk any longer. This stops now!”


And surely it’s time for patients to play their part.