South East Wales

Abergavenny GP turns baker to escape long days and pressure

Dr Rachael Watson
Image caption Becoming a baker has given Dr Watson "more balance"

With 84% of GPs concerned they may miss a serious problem with a patient due to their workload, it is not surprising some choose to leave the profession.

In Wales, 56% of GPs either planned on reducing their hours or quitting during the next five years, a poll by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) found.

When the long hours, intensity and pressure got too much for Dr Rachael Watson, 48, she quit her surgery to become a baker and part-time GP locum.

She was about to become a partner in a GP practice in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, when the reality of what she was about to commit to hit her.

"I felt like I was going to jump into a black hole where my family life and personal life would get swallowed up," said Dr Watson.

"I never wanted to give being a GP up, I wanted something to run in parallel to get a bit more balance.

"When I started there was time to speak to the other GPs to discuss complicated issues, but now that has gone.

"On one day I worked out I had some kind of contact with 107 patients. That's seven minutes a patient."

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in Wales has pointed to a "desperate workplace crisis" with too many GPs leaving on the one hand and a slump in the young medical graduates looking to train as GPs.

As doctors retire, six GP partnerships in north Wales have already had to be taken over by the local health board.

Dr Watson said the long hours and stresses placed on GPs are putting off young doctors from going into the job.

"You work exceedingly long days, which can be 12-and-a-half hours long," said Dr Watson.

"I was doing two-and-a-half days, and on the days I was doing half days I started at 8.30am and finished at 3pm. That's a part of general practice.

"Mine was a generation of GPs who just get on and do it, the new generation of GPs can see that a life and work balance is really important.

Image caption Dr Rachael Watson now locums as a GP

"But it is not just the long days, it is the intensity and pressure on those ten minute appointments. There is no time for reflection. Some of the decisions you make there were difficult and there was no time for that level of consideration.

"There is so little time to discuss or reflect. There is very little time to deal with the sadness you come across as a GP, and you end up taking more home with you than is healthy.

"Part of the thing I loved about being a GP was really listening to patients and feeling that they had been listened to and sorted out and treating them as I would want my family to be treated. But if you do that you end up going home late and being tired."

Now Dr Watson does one-and-a-half days as a GP locum and runs a business teaching bread baking.

"I have always loved food, and my sister taught me how to bake bread when I was a teenager," said Dr Watson.

"But I really enjoy being a locum too. I don't have to do any of the paperwork, I'm finished by 6.30pm rather than 8pm or 9pm. I go in and do my job and the enjoyment has returned.

"Now I have the freedom to go in and be a really nice GP."

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