15 Questions You’ve Never Asked Your GP

A visit to the GP usually entails us rambling on while answering the GP’s questions… but what would happen if the tables were turned?

Life as a GP is a bit of a mystery as we only get to witness a small ten-minute snippet of their day when we go in for a check-up. While we may get to see more than just ten minutes inside the surgery in GPs: Behind Closed Doors, we still don’t get all the questions we’ve ever wanted to ask a GP answered. So we caught up with Dr Amanda Ramshaw from the show, to do just that.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a GP?

In ’98, after qualifying to be a doctor. I tried women’s health and pediatrics for a while which were interesting, but decided neither were for me. As soon as I started being a general practitioner I took to it straight away, it was like I was born to be a GP.

Why become a GP instead of another type of doctor?

There’s so much variety to being a GP, you see so many different conditions and so many different people – you might see three or four generations of the same family that you know and treat too. You’re never bored!

What’s the best thing about your job?

It has a real buzz to it – knowing you can make a difference in people’s lives by listening to them, helping them, and making them feel better.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

The hours – I do what’s called 7 half days, which actually means I work around 50 hours per week.

Do you ever go out and socialise with any of the other GPs/ nurses?

We do regular nights out and there’s now a social committee, so we’ve done fun events like group bowling and a Christmas do. We’re lucky in that we have a sociable surgery – it’s compulsory here that we all eat lunch or get a coffee in the common room at the same time every day, which I think hardly any surgery does.

Do you ever get embarrassed when someone comes in with an awkward health complaint?

Never, I don’t think there’s any condition that could embarrass me.

Do you ever catch your patients’ illnesses?

Rarely – I think you build up an immunity over time.

Do you ever prescribe medicine to yourself, family and friends?

We’re not allowed to prescribe anyone anything outside work, though we might get asked for advice by our family and friends. It wouldn’t be ethical to prescribe ourselves medication, or see a GP from within our practise – we all have our own GPs separate to work.

What’s something you wish patients knew about life as a GP?

How busy and demanding it is – many of us run late every day. Although the programme is called GPs: Behind Closed Doors you only really see a small taster of what it’s like – it’s very busy and there’s such a lot going on. We always try to run on time, but of course we only get 10 minute slots with each patient which isn’t enough for some appointments, and we sometimes have to deal with urgent requests on the day.

Is the NHS as good as it could be?

Everybody across the NHS is under enormous pressure with increasing demand and decreasing resources. I do sometimes worry about what’s going to happen in the future.

What’s something that patients always come to you with that they shouldn’t worry about?

I think if someone’s worried enough to make an appointment then they are right to come in. One person’s worry is different to another’s. Of course, there’s definitely an argument for educating yourself first, by looking up symptoms and causes online (NHS Choices is a very useful website), but I don’t think I’ve ever thought that it was a waste of time for a patient to come in to get checked.

What’s something that people commonly don’t pick up on that they should get checked?

Common ones that the NHS says to look out for are having a cough for more than three weeks and rectal bleeding, as those could both be signs of cancer.

Is work ever distressing?

Yes, it can be distressing. I don’t live near the surgery so I have about a 20-mile drive home which I think is good because I can unwind as I drive. It’s good to discuss any distressing things with colleagues or spouses but also to keep work separate when you can so that you can switch off.

What’s your best advice for staying healthy and happy in life?

I guess I see a lot of patients who don’t enjoy what they do which I think is really important to your overall happiness, as well as having a good work/ life balance. Then there are the key things like healthy eating and exercising regularly too. The most important thing I’d say is that you do what works for you individually. Like when exercising, for example, make sure you’re exercising in a way that you enjoy.

What would you say to someone who’s considering becoming a GP?

I’d say go for it – it’s a fantastic job and really fulfilling, as hard as it may be.

Dr Amanda Ramshaw is a GP partner who loves running, sailing and cooking and is a full-time working mum to her ten-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.