'I often ended up taking patients' worries home' Long hours and increased bureaucracy take their toll; CASE STUDY

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The Independent Online
GLENDA COOPER

Graham Easton took science A-levels at 16, went to medical school and completed his three-year training in general practice in August 1994. A year later he is working as a producer for the BBC, one of many medical students who have turned away from general practice.

He had been attracted to the idea of general practice. "I thought the lifestyle of a GP would suit me best and that there would be more chance to talk to the patients," he said.

But, while Mr Easton, 29, enjoyed his training at a practice in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, what he saw put him off a permanent life as a GP. There were three particular problems he found GPs were struggling with daily: the increasing bureaucracy, the hours worked and patients' expectations.

"There's loads of paperwork. You end up feeling you're filling in lots and lots of forms and meeting your targets on paper rather than trying to sort out problems in real life. If you have a problem which needs a little while to sort out you don't feel its value for money," he said.

The hours he worked also took their toll. "In my experience GPs are very hardworking. They don't take Wednesdays off to play golf. When I was on call I often found I was taking the worries of my ill patients home with me so a call-out in a way was a welcome break from that.

"On top of that patients' expectations have been fuelled by the Government with things like the Patient's Charter. People are asking for more and expect more but the NHS has not provided GPs with more resources. People expect to be seen by specialists more quickly and they also expect less waiting times. One patient exploded on me after he had to wait 40 minutes because I was dealing with someone who was having a heart attack," he said.

After he completed his training Mr Easton said he felt that he had two options: "To stay as a GP for many years or do something that I'd wanted to do - study". So he did a masters degree in science communications at Imperial College in London and is now happyworking as a producer in the science and medicine unit of the BBC World Service.

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