Dr Euan Lawson, portfolio GP in Cumbria, explains how a little bit of apathy goes a long way
We all need a little bit of apathy. I’m not advocating idleness: one still has to see the patients, hack through the path links, sign the scripts, and offer sacrifices to the great GMC God of Revalidation. I mean a version of purposeful apathy; the kind of apathy that gives you a chance of surviving a career in the NHS. Take my NHS smartcard. I’ve tried, admittedly halfheartedly, to get one over the years, but the system barely acknowledged locums. I could have wallowed in some existential angst; instead I have let the snub wash over me and I remain, chaste and proud, a Choose and Book virgin.
I have revelled in being apathetic when it comes to commissioning. When I enter any meeting where commissioning is being discussed I feel like a slug crawling into a bag of ready salted crisps. My soul shrivels and my face twists. It’s not pretty: think tetany; think bulldog licking a nettle. You get the idea. It’s not just apathy, it is simple self-preservation.
I’m sure that many partners have embraced purposeful apathy. Our local RCGP faculty board meetings consist of GPs who are retired or sessional in some capacity. No one else has the energy. I was texted by one partner still seeing patients at 8pm who had to go home to prepare for the CQC visit the next day. Later he told me the practice got a ‘good’ with the rider ‘could be excellent’, which seems somewhat damning in a Jim Bowen, lookat- what-you-could-have-won, kind of way. Turns out that the staff toilet training wasn’t quite up to mustard. Or something. I forget. To be honest, he lost me at CQC.
There are now just two kinds of GPs. Those above a certain age where the years to retirement are in single digits. (You’ll know who they are – they’ll tell you.) For the rest of us retirement is still receding into the distance and it’s no longer visible on the horizon. Something to do with the curvature of the Earth I think. For both groups I maintain that purposeful apathy is the best answer. I’m a little prone to ranting and raving at the best of times. If I got riled up over every flaw in the system I’d be dead by the end of the average day. A little bit of apathy goes a long way.
Dr Euan Lawson is a portfolio GP in Cumbria, also working at Lancaster Medical School and as Deputy Editor of the BJGP.