I LOVE my job as a GP and I could think of nothing else I would rather do than the job I get to do every day.

It is rewarding in ways I never imagined a job could be and I feel grateful that I get to do what I do for a living.

However, I am worried about the state of affairs for general practice right now.

I am worried about my fellow GP friends, colleagues and wider primary care staff because frankly, we are at crisis point and if something isn’t done soon, there is potential for the whole healthcare system to crumble.

I am not saying this to be sensationalistic, I am saying this because I am seeing first-hand just how unmanageable the workload is becoming for everyone working in primary care and we are struggling to stop our GPs from leaving.

Glasgow Times:

Whilst the world came to a standstill as the pandemic struck us over a year ago, GPs stepped up.

We need to get factual here because the national media headlines and misleading hearsay on social media platforms would have you believe otherwise.

Overnight, as the country locked down, GPs learnt new ways to deliver uninterrupted care to their patients.

Patient access was changed from routine face-to-face appointments to telephone and video consultations and where patients needed to be seen in person, this was done.

Despite the Government supplying us with ill-fitting, out of date and dangerous PPE, we still got on with our jobs. GP trainees and junior doctors in practices were put through incredible tests as they too stepped up to support their seniors.

Some GPs ready to retire paused this momentous and well-earned career milestone in order to do their bit when called to action, whilst others, like myself, returned back early from maternity leave.

Other services shut down or reduced their access but in contrast to those who complained about quiet waiting rooms, the reality is that inside, our phones were and continue to be off the hook and our screens full of patients needing reviews, call backs, prescriptions, results, referrals ... the jobs are endless.

Our roles have not got easier during this pandemic, they have only got harder. This is not a piece for empathy, this is a piece to allow the public to understand that the morale right now in primary care is very low and we deserve better.

In recent months, there has been much GP bashing. There has been this myth that GPs have been lazy, not doing their jobs, not seeing patients face-to-face and the most bizarre of all – they have been closed!

Even prior to this pandemic, GPs in Scotland were working above capacity and this has become worse as they have continued to deliver without any additional support from the powers above – a real slap in the face.

A recent survey conducted by The British Medical Association (Scotland) of 669 GPs found that 73.3% GPs reported struggling to cope with their workload, causing a negative impact on their physical and mental health. Two thirds of GPs (66.8%) admitted to their workload being unmanageable with 57% saying this had worsened over the pandemic.

These statistics are worrying and clearly this is unsustainable. It takes 10-12 years to become a GP, an investment of time, money and most of all, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. None of us ever imagine quitting.

We sign up to a vocation and one we know will, at times, be tough, but we don’t expect our jobs to make us unhealthy and miserable. There is a real concern here that if the issues of workload and demands, which are being put on GPs just now, don’t get addressed, not only will we start losing GPs –which we absolutely cannot afford to do – there is potential for patient safety issues.

The Government needs to awaken to this very serious problem. GPs urgently need to be heard and supported on the ground just now.

From a distance, it can be easy to criticise GPs when their job is not understood. Everyone has a GP and everyone will call upon them at some point in their life. We have not stopped.

On top of everything, the hugely successful vaccination roll-out could not have happened without our input. What will it take for our work and contributions to be seen?

We had a real problem with GP recruitment and retention before Covid hit us. Right now, the rate of burnout amongst GPs is rising and we are thin on the ground.

This is a huge public health crisis in the making because we have rising numbers of mental health issues, backlogs from services that were halted, increasing cases of long Covid – all in the face of a challenging winter where we will not only have flu season to get our public through, but we will have the added pressures of the ongoing pandemic.

You need healthy, happy, supported doctors and teams to be equipped and ready to do this. Sadly, the statistics are telling us otherwise.

So, what can you do? Please see your GPs as humans. Right from the admin team to the doctors, nurses and other primary healthcare staff, we are honestly going as fast and as effectively as we can.

The issue is not us, it is the fact we need more support, respect, collaboration and reassurance from the Scottish Government that it is taking steps to keep us in our jobs and informing the public of what is really happening on the ground, so we don’t need to face constant criticism which only makes our work more challenging.