Why become a GP?

Guest blog by Dr Campbell Murdoch, GP, Millbrook Surgery

“Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I became a doctor because I like helping people, science, and solving problems. I became a GP because I like variety, opportunity, and having some choice over my career journey. I remain a GP because I can make career choices based on:

  • Achieving the greatest health benefits for others.
  • Spending time with good and inspiring people.
  • Ensuring a work-life balance, because we’re in this for the long game.

In the beginning

Before medical school I grew up in the Mendip Hills. I then disappeared up north for a decade for medical school, followed by GP training, and as it happened meeting my wife. The blue skies then pulled us back to the West Country in the late 2000’s.

The GP career choice meant that within one week of deciding to move south I had a job interview lined up. (In 2022, taking one week to find a potential GP job would be unheard of. I’ve just fired up Google. It took 2 seconds to launch the browser, 10 seconds to type in the search bar, and 27 seconds to find five GP vacancies within 10 miles of my home…..if you ever feel stuck in a rut!).

I spent my first 6 years in Somerset working full-time as a GP. I also undertook postgrad studies in Sports and Exercise Medicine at Bath Uni, driven by the interest of how to achieve health/wellbeing/performance without keeping the local pharmacy busy.

Metabolic health

In 2012 I began developing an interest in what is now known as metabolic health. This interest was triggered by a combination of:

  • Studying Sports and Exercise Medicine, and the insights of some of the international gurus in the field, Prof Tim Noakes and Dr Peter Bruckner
  • Endless filing of blood results and noticing a lot of people have raised high triglycerides
  • A distant memory of a medical school lecture on metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance syndrome) and Prof Gerald Reaven

Fast forwarding 10 years, I see poor metabolic health and insulin resistance as one of the core health challenges of our time. It is the cause or contributor to about half of all GP consultations. 

Stepping off the train tracks

In 2015 I was experiencing daily nausea about being on the GP full-time production line. In hindsight I was rather burnt out. The idea of the next decades of my life, doing short appointments, in a system that was designed for acute illness, with drug-prescription-solutions, had lost its sense of magic. This was combined with the steady realisation that the reason I was feeling so beaten up every day was because I was in a system that was supposed to be doing that to me. (My opinion. The traditional GP business model is breaking – not through chance or for absolute necessity, but by the various influences of the medical industry, political will, the NHS behemoth, and the broken metabolic and mental health of the population). 

So I had an epiphany! With the ingrained belief that you don’t wait for someone else to sort your life out, I embarked on a journey to diversify my career – to do meaningful work, regain a sense of hope, and keep my batteries charged…

GPing in Somerset

GPing in Somerset has provided a constant for me since then. This has meant instead of flogging myself to death working full-time on the GP production line, I could seek out other opportunities. Some paid, some voluntary. All aiming to be useful and meaningful. The list includes:

  • Person-centred care lead for Somerset CCG (now ICB)
  • Being a Chief Medical Officer for a health tech company (which included trips to North Africa, Middle East, and Canada)
  • Setting up a preventative healthcare organisation to deliver education, training, and support to the public and healthcare professionals
  • Running health and wellbeing programmes in prisons across England
  • Running education evenings in the Town Halls of Somerset on how to reverse type 2 diabetes (whilst learning about the art of large-scale-change and battling with local dietitians and diabetologists who hadn’t yet seen the light)
  • Teaching medical students at Bristol University
  • Working for Public Health England training healthcare professionals on the benefits of physical activity for health
  • Working for NHS England Time for Care team, training primary care teams across England in quality improvement methodology
  • Being on the scientific advisory panel for the Public Health Collaboration
  • And generally seeking out opportunities to spend more time with people that are doing meaningful and inspiring things.

As a GP in Somerset, is it possible to do what people need, get paid, and do something you love? Yes it is. I’ve found it to be a journey. No one will (or can) drive it for me. But feeling inspired and having hope, whilst avoiding burn-out, is achievable. If I had one piece of advice for my earlier self when I first became a GP, it would be “own it”. In Somerset, if you choose to, you can own it!

Somerset NHS Metabolic Health Hub

What is next for me? A Somerset NHS Metabolic Health Hub.

If you are interested in metabolic health for patients (or yourself), then here are a few resources:

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