Next please – Dr Nixon looks back

davidnixonanothershotI never wanted to be a GP. In fact, I never wanted to be a doctor. I always wanted to be a vet. Growing up on a farm in Kenya, surrounded by animals and six dogs around the house in the middle of the bush, a vet seemed appropriate. Somehow, around mid-teens, it switched to becoming a doctor. I have no idea why. There were none in the family, I did not know any doctors, did I really want to ‘help people’- standard medical school interview response? Well no, that had not really occurred to me either.

I went to medical school in Edinburgh. It was easier to get a place then – a couple of Bs at A level and say you want to help people at the interview and you are in! I had a great time and it was there I met Moi, my wife to be. During early hospital posts I decided I would be a surgeon. Drama, status, highly satisfying, saving lives during emergency operations – I loved it. It was when I was a junior surgeon a colleague was talking about being a GP. I said “never”- the only thing I disliked about being a surgeon was the two afternoons a week in Outpatients- as a GP you are in Outpatients all the time!

I became a GP after meeting an enthusiastic bunch of GPs while working as a surgeon in Liverpool. It is just as well, as I had just ‘dobbed in’ my consultant at a Royal College of Surgeons visit regarding performance. Usually a career ending move. As a GP you can choose your practice, choose where you live, choose your life. Lots of variety, people are interesting, even when they are ill. GP training involves a variety of hospital jobs in different specialities. My favourite was obstetrics. Because of my surgical training I was on duty for caesarean sections at night. Delivering babies is very satisfying, especially after all the drama of an emergency.

These were all useful skills for our next adventure, which was a four-year stint in the Solomon Islands. Our children were very young and because of them, we were quickly part of the community. Solomon Islanders love children. Professionally, it was the most enjoyable time I have had. Travelling in canoes to far off islands, some beautiful beach atolls others smoking volcanic eruptions, to hold clinics with the local nurse. Really sick people, many of whom one could help get better as they were otherwise young and healthy. Our children spoke beautiful Pidgin and danced and sang like islanders.

After we returned from the Solomon Islands, I was driving one summer to visit a practice in Bicester – it was not what we were looking for, even Bicester seemed too urban after life in the islands. Wychwood Surgery had just advertised so I drove through Milton on my way back to Bristol. It was sunny; there were kids on the green, kids hanging around Naish’s shop on bikes eating ice creams. A dad was walking his child into the surgery. It looked idyllic and a great place to be with a family. I applied, Sandy Scott invited me for an interview and our rural life began. That was 1995.

It was simple then, three full time male doctors, Anna the only dispenser, Janet Wallace and Beryl Taylor the only nurses. Janet did the dispensing when Anna was on holiday. The medicines were left in white paper bags in the waiting room for collection. We attended Chippy hospital almost daily, attended home births and there were no computers to tell us what to do or boxes to tick. We were on call every 3rd night and weekend.

It has changed a lot since then of course. Moving to a new surgery 12 years ago gave us a lot more space. Now there are lots of doctors – all women apart from one, four in the nursing team and umpteen dispensers in the pharmacy. Computers run our lives but have undoubtedly brought far better standards of care as a result, and much of the work previously done in hospitals is now done in the surgery. Records and results are more available, and we have easy access to current guidelines of care. Expectations have increased considerably, particularly from politicians who increasingly set targets of the unattainable.

I have felt very lucky and privileged working at the Wychwood Surgery and being in this community. It certainly has made me feel that being a GP was the right decision. It is the people you work with and see every day that make your day. It still has the same atmosphere of making things as enjoyable as possible, though the pressures are considerably greater.

It is gratifying to see that the Wychwood Surgery was 16th out of 7500 GP surgeries in England in a recent Patient Satisfaction survey; yes, our receptionists are wonderful!
No doubt Nina, Katrina, Vanessa and all, will continue this and I wish them all the very best.

David Nixon

And two terrible doctor jokes to finish, suitable only for the young at heart:

“Doctor, doctor, have you got anything for wind?”
“Certainly,”replied the GP, and gave him a new kite.

“Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.”
“Don’t be so silly, man, pull yourself together.”

October – November 2018