Deputy chair of the BMA Dr Richard Vautrey gives an insight into his busy life
It’s 7.20am and I’m shouting up the stairs reminding my two teenage sons to get up. I split my working week between my practice and the LMC in Leeds and the BMA in London, and on days like today it’s good to be able to do the school run.
We’re out of the door before 7.30am and at 7.45am the boys are in school and I’m sat in my practice. The 15 minutes before surgery starts is a useful time to prepare for the day. I try to resist the temptation to deal with all my emails, and sit down for a quick cup of tea with my partners and our trainee GPs before patients arrive.
My surgery starts at 8am and today I’m the on-call GP until 11.30am. We split the day into three sessions and the GP who covers the morning session can expect to spend most of the time on the phone. Any patient who wants to speak to a GP is added to the telephone surgery list for me to ring back. The list grows quickly once all the routine appointments have been filled as further requests to be seen that day are also added for me to triage.
Those patients I can’t deal with safely on the phone, such as young children and someone with an unusual rash, I ask to come to the surgery. I also keep an eye on all requests for home visits, look at blood test results and deal with prescriptions for GPs who are away. It is a stressful morning. Fortunately today I’ve managed to keep on top of the work, speaking to the last patient at 11.40am, and I’m soon heading off to the LMC office ten minutes away.
"As a GPC negotiator I know in painful detail the complexity of the imposed contract requirements and the vast number of boxes that need to be ticked"
I’ve been Leeds LMC secretary and now assistant secretary for 14 years and through seemingly constant NHS organisational change. Today is the start of a new chapter as we have our first meeting with the senior officers of the new area team of NHS England. We’ve also brought together representatives of other LMCs in the region.
It’s a very positive meeting and we agree to meet on a regular basis. It helps that the LMC provides a sandwich lunch for any visitors, something now rarely offered by NHS bodies when you visit them. I head back to the practice for my afternoon surgery.
Ten-minute appointments fly by and like all GPs I increasingly struggle to get everything done that the patient and particularly the computer want me to do. As a GPC negotiator I know in painful detail the complexity of the imposed contract requirements and the vast number of boxes that need to be ticked. However, the computer system has not yet been updated with the latest QOF and DES changes so I can’t rely on the prompts. So when I see patients with hypertension the computer tells me they are well controlled, but I know the goalposts have been changed therefore I have to discuss again whether they want or can tolerate yet more medication to bring their blood pressure down to the new target.
"Email can be a curse and hard to escape from, even on holiday, but I couldn’t do what I do without it"
When I get home at 6.20pm, my family have already started their evening meal. I try to get an update about school, but that proves to be beyond the ability of my consultation skills. My wife, who works for the Citizens Advice Bureau, tells me about the new benefits changes and warns me of the big impact they’ll have on my patients and GPs being asked for supporting evidence.
This evening is our monthly LMC meeting so it means heading off out again at 7.30pm. My wife is therefore less than pleased that I spend the short time that we have together checking emails. Email can be a curse and hard to escape from, even on holiday, but I couldn’t do what I do without it.
The LMC meeting provides an opportunity to feedback to the full committee about the discussions we had with the area team at lunchtime. We’re fortunate to have representatives from the local hospital, community trusts and the Director of Public Health from the local authority attending the committee. They all help to provide us with a comprehensive perspective on what is happening in our area and how that impacts on GPs and patients.
At 9.30pm I’m back home again. It’s time to relax for a while before preparing for the weekly early morning commute to London.