|Dr Graham Easton|
Ben Broglia: What do you find rewarding about teaching Imperial students?
Graham Easton: One of the great things is teaching people who are enthusiastic, keen, bright and passionate, which helps me refocus on why I went into medicine. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of surgery, and teaching gives me the opportunity to step back. It gives me a chance to reflect on what we do and refresh my clinical skills, such as the neurological exam which I hated as a student! The final thing for me is the thrill of inspiring students, and the challenge of explaining a topic.
BB: You recently had published a new book “The Appointment”, the story of a fictional morning surgery. What inspired you to write this?
GE: I’m passionate about general practice and wanted to show readers what it’s like at the other end of the stethoscope, and what a challenging and complex role it is. I wanted to give them a taste of what it’s like inside the mind of one GP, during that extraordinary journey through a day in the practice. So I’ve told it through eighteen 10-minute appointments, with each chapter being a new patient, from sore throats to sick children. In the process I’m trying to show some of the medical detective work we’re trained to do, and the fascinating interpersonal aspects of an appointment, communication skills, dealing with uncertainty and the bureaucracy in a health system that’s stretched to breaking point. I’ve wanted to write a book on general practice for years, and having written a couple of case-based medical books recently it’s given me the courage to have a go.
BB: What are your plans for the future as a GP, educator and author?
GE: As a GP, I want to get through the current storm that is the modern NHS – my feeling is there are peaks and troughs and this is definitely a trough. I’m doing that by using a portfolio approach, continuing as a GP appraiser and developing the undergraduate and teaching side of my career, and helping develop a new (SCM) Specialty Choice Module called “Medicine in the Media”. Getting back to grassroots community teaching, which is easy to lose sight of the more involved in leadership one gets. As an author I’ve really enjoyed the process of writing, and the journey from proposal to publicity. It’s been well received and I’m delighted it’s been chosen for the Radio 2 Book Club. I’d love to do another one and I’m talking to publishers and my agent about a focus for the next book. It’s likely to be on a medical theme, but we’re not exactly sure on what yet. It’s exciting!
BB: As one of the Programme Directors for the Imperial GP Training Scheme, what challenges do you envisage the programme facing in the future?
GE: I think the challenges are positive ones, about making the most of the exceptional potential the scheme has, still only 4 years old! It’s based in a department of academic primary care which is unusual, which offers incredible possibilities such as innovative training posts at the King’s Fund, research projects and posts at the BJGP. I think the challenge is to build on that and really make the most of the opportunities we have here, which most other schemes simply don’t have. We need more GPs, so it’s likely that schemes such as ours will expand, but as you expand you want to maintain the incredible training and quality we have, so it’s going to be about growing without diluting the offer.
BB: If you were made Health Secretary, what one change would you make to the way the NHS is run, if any?
GE: Apart from recognising the pivotal role of expert generalism in the NHS, and making sure primary care is properly staffed and funded, though I’m probably not allowed to have that! One of the key things would be to slash the administrative burden on GPs so we can actually do what we’re trained to do and look after patients. I know that administration and bureaucracy goes with any job, but it seems to me the pendulum has swung too far in that direction, so I’d like things such as more support/admin staff, streamlining the Kafkaesque NHS referrals system, improving access to secondary care and advice, things like that, which would help us to do more of the patient facing care. More working together too – a lot of the stress of general practice is because we work in isolation most of the time, and some of the protected time and space we had to talk through things and support each other has dissolved. We need to recoup some of that “team feel”, so you don’t feel as alone.
"The Appointment" is available from Amazon UK and all good bookshops