One of the joys of being a GP for nearly thirty years in the same practice (my grey beard testifies to this) is the real pleasure of seeing generations of families grow up and start their own families.
One working day began last week by doing an eight week check on a new-born baby. I had three generations of a family in the consulting room – a baby, mother and grandmother. As the new mum undressed her baby, I was reminiscing with the grandmother about how I had done some of the home visits and new born checks on the mother, who is now a proud parent herself.
I was nostalgically speaking to the grandmother about the ‘old days’ when GPs would do a postnatal visit for every mother and then see the new-born baby regularly for their weigh-ins. The GP would provide a lot of support and advice – this was a part of general practice I genuinely enjoyed.
Nowadays, practices are much busier and GPs are more removed from this aspect of health care. The new mum, who was listening to our conversation, had a very different perspective. “I have a very busy life”, she said, “and who has the time for all of these appointments?” “What about the advice and support?” I asked. “Oh, I get that from ‘Dr Google’ and my mum.”
My next patient suffers from asthma and experiences longstanding anxiety. As a regular attendee at the surgery and at A&E, I was feeling tentative about this appointment, however when I reviewed their notes I was pleasantly surprised. The patient hadn’t found a need to attend surgery for over six months and no longer visited A&E. Naturally I was curious to find out why, were they better? Had they stopped smoking?
When I asked the patient, they told me that our practice’s pharmacist had taught them how to measure and adjust the balance of their asthma medication according to their symptoms and now has an action plan in place that tells them what to do if they experience shortness of breath, any tightness and pain in their chest or signs of an attack. They had also started to use the NHS 111 service for advice if they were experiencing feelings of anxiety. The patient felt they were finally in control of their conditions, and had so much more time now they are no longer a frequent A&E or surgery attendee! I asked them about smoking 🙂
Last Thursday night I attended an event that raised awareness of mental health within the Jewish community. Ivan Lewis, MP, was interviewed at the event about his history of depression, which he speaks very openly about. He spoke about how prayer, learning and exercise had made a big difference to his symptoms. Many other people also shared some of their experiences, and whilst most had accessed NHS services, they also discussed other activities that they had found had helped them become more mindful, such as yoga, exercise, diet and meditation.
I was struck by how so many people are resilient and self-reliant. By paying more attention to their health, thoughts and feelings, searching for different activities that could help and then setting aside time to practise them in daily life, they have found ways to manage their own individual challenges and handle them in a better way. Today, there is so much help and information available to us in so many different ways, either online through the NHS website or the wide range of apps that are available to download from the Apple Store and Google Play. The Bury Directory is another tool for local people to use to search for organisations and services across the borough offering support on all aspects of health and wellbeing. It means we can all be more mindful and try new activities or take steps to help us to improve our own physical and mental wellbeing.
So what am I going to do to help me to improve mine? Well for me, I need to find a solution that will help me overcome that laziness that prevents me running another marathon!