Being a GP and working in deprived communities

I guess that I decided to be a GP when I was about six years old.  At this point, I’m not sure that I had a clue about what General Practice actually entailed.  But I was still drawn to it.  To the idea of helping people, I think.

As time moved forward, and I went to medical school, becoming a GP became a real possibility.  I understood more about the privilege, and challenge, that this title would bring.  It allows important relationships to be fostered, and long-term continuity of care.  It requires a broad understanding of medicine, and, with this, encourages daily learning.  It requires compassion, and asks that you understand humanity in a deep way.

As a GP trainee, these previously formed ideas started to be put into practice.  General Practice became embedded into who I was.  My deepening of understanding of communication, care, learning and knowledge started to come together as I practiced.  But with this came a frustration.  A frustration that I should be able to do it better – to be better, to care more, to learn more.  And a frustration for the patient.  I could see a need for more than just treating a condition – sticking a plaster on something that hurt.  With so many different facets to being a human – body, mind, spirituality – good General Practice could do more.  It could affect change in all these areas, if they were recognised as being part of the whole person.

Whole-person care is what excites me about being a GP.  Working in an area of deprivation in Manchester has enabled me to develop this more and more.  It is known that areas of deprivation carry different health needs than other, more affluent areas, and different kinds of challenges come along with this.  People smoke more, drink more, have significant social issues.  Health promotion stands alongside child protection issues, which stand alongside late cancer presentations, and poor selfcare understanding.  Life is complex.  As a GP, I am invited into the lives of people – they share their fears and failures, their hopes and needs.  Alongside trying to bring the best medical practice I can to what they present with physically or mentally, I am able to work with them to improve their future health, and that of their families.  What a privilege.  That is why General Practice is special, and why I love working in an area of deprivation.  

Heather Dutton, Team member at Shared Health Foundation


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