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MAKING IT MATTER - challenging demographics and rewarding roles

The health service covers our entire country, caring for every type of person in every possible situation, and for that reason a role within it can offer an extreme level of variety.

Small country clinics deal with very different patients to those at deprived city practices – but for every demographic  served, there is a GP who thrives in that environment, no matter what the challenges.

One clinic that caters for a ‘difficult’ patient list is the Maple Access Partnership in Northampton, which supports the most vulnerable patients in the area. But GP Mark Mackenzie who is based there wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I used to find it very frustrating, spending the majority of my time dealing with coughs and colds and ailments that would essentially get better with or without our intervention. Coming here has given me opportunities way beyond that.”

Working at the practice two days a week and as a hospital based GP three days a week operating drug and alcohol clinics and extended services, Dr Mackenzie now finds his new role infinitely more rewarding.

He said: “When you have got someone whose life has been destroyed by drug and alcohol problems and you get them back on their feet – that’s a wonderful feeling.

“When you save their marriage or save their job through what you’re doing, you are genuinely changing lives. I am passionate about that and the effects of what you do are so much more far-reaching too.

“If you can reduce the number of heroin addicts in a town then the level of crime goes down. That’s not just extremely rewarding as a career, as a feeling of fulfilment - that is priceless.

“When I first studied medicine I didn’t want to be a GP because I thought I’d be spending all my time treating hypochondriacs. After a while you realise that there is a lot of that, and that is your bread and butter, day to day.  But what I’m doing now and the role I have here, that’s the jam for me.”

Another practice that embraces the challenges its patient list brings is Kingshurst Medical Practice in Solihull, where the deprived immediate area makes domestic violence, mental health problems, depression and safeguarding common issues to be dealt with.

But in return this type of work brings its own reward – with a greater feeling of fulfilment and job satisfaction of knowing that what you are doing is making a real difference to people’s lives.

One GP based at the centre, Dr Anubha Sinha, said that while she did not specifically choose this type of practice, she has no qualms with her decision to join the practice in December last year.

“To be honest it doesn’t make any difference to me who I am treating. I am not worried if I am dealing with a large traveller population or whatever – the medicine is the same so it doesn’t faze me,” she said.

Dr Sinha’s colleague at the practice, Dr Rebecca Henderson, enjoys the challenge that the patient demographic presents, saying: “I prefer to work in inner city practices as I find the workload challenging and rewarding. Our population is predominantly people within a low socioeconomic group.  

“There is a high incidence of social and mental health problems which means that we need to approach patients holistically and tackle all their problems at the same time.

“We are supported by the practice to extend appointment times when we need to, in order to manage the complexity of the patients safely, and working here means there is a real opportunity to make a difference for these patients.”