Doctors on the Edge: General Practitioners, Health and Learning in the Inner-city

West, Linden.


IBSN: 9781853435225 Categories: ,


This title focuses on the work, well-being and lives of doctors during a period of constant change and crisis in the National Health Service and of growing anxiety about levels of clinical competence and accountability. The alarming number of well-publicized “failures” by medics – at the Royal Bristol Children’s Hospital, the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, for instance, and the appalling breach of trust by Dr Harold Shipman -the Manchester General Practitioner found guilty of murdering 15 patients – has led to a Government enquiry into the accountability of the profession. All, it seems, is far from well among medics. Linden West’s text shows how GPs are responding to their changing roles in a changing society; and how such responses may be understood in a context of whole life histories as well as within the norms of medical culture. Doctors, as a profession, have tended, for many reasons, to hide behind a professional curtain in what can be a very “male” world. Some matters – surrounding the emotional well-being of doctors – are hard for doctors to talk about in this world where, too often, they have been taught to cope, like “good men should”. The book reveals the emotional problems doctors face and, unlikely, provides space for them to tell their stories of struggles to become more authentic, and reflective as well as “effective” practitioners. We are presented with insights into what is a deeply gendered world in which many women doctors feel torn between caring at work and for their families, and where men can be absent from “women’s work”, at home and in the surgery; a culture too where racism still pervades attitudes towards “minority” doctors. This is also an environment in which cultural and emotional understandings have tended to be disparaged as “soft” in the name of a harder science. The book provides heroic tales of GPs transcending the shortcomings of training, and the misogyny and racism pervading their profession.

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