In a recent writing endeavour, I wrote about a day in my life as an NHS GP. It was the type of stress-filled day I have personally experienced too many times and one I believed current GPs in Britain might relate to. The article described how the relentless pressures coming from the target-driven culture and the current GP working model led me to burnout. A few weeks have passed since and I remain quite haunted by some of the comments that lurked below the piece. Yes, they were eventually removed, even the kinder ones but, nestled in the digital engrams of internet apathy was some pretty hateful stuff. They attacked my gender, race, perceived social class but, worst of all, my ability as a parent. Excuse me while I pause to breathe.
It is clear which aspect hit me the hardest, not that I recommend grading levels of online bile. The purpose of the piece was to share some of the realities of a doctor’s life and to engage with the public - the real people I work for, the patients I serve, the families and individuals I want to enjoy healthier lives. It is quite likely some of those who felt it acceptable to wax lyrical about how my gender, specifically the child-bearing capability, supposedly impacting my professional purview, were service users.
None of the vitriol was particularly clever, but ironically, one title given to me in the comments may well form part of the title of my upcoming book - if I can find a way to make “elite pampered pooch” sound a little more catchy that is. Let me address that little nugget of judgement to avoid any doubt. I was born and brought up in Glasgow. A third generation Indian, my parents came here with nothing and worked tirelessly building a business from the ground up in order to raise and support two daughters, providing us with the ability to be able to stand on our own two feet. Growing up, my life was split between helping out in the family newsagents or doing schoolwork. We had no luxuries and this was fine because I had all the love and encouragement I could ask for.
To support myself during my education, I held down two jobs. In addition to helping my dad in his shop, I worked in a nursing home looking after the venerable and the vulnerable as well as in a pizza place. My only point is that anything I have today, material or otherwise, is the product of grafting and hustling, and I believe that I have earned every bit of it.
Facing online judgement from people who do not know me is disappointing. It is a sad reflection of our society nowadays, for those willing to step outside the boxes, in which others place us, are so readily denigrated. Perhaps the fact that I pass zero judgement on my patients, whether they are in for a cancer consultation or for their methadone prescription, is something these trolls might want to reflect on. Imagine if I were to deem someone less-worthy of treatment based on a contrary opinion. I wouldn’t and I couldn’t. The hippocratic oath to prioritise patient care, to do good and do no harm means something to doctors - to the digital goblins I say: it should mean something to you too.
As a proud Scot, Brit and European, reading that I should be deported back to where I came from made me chuckle. Is there a ship that can drop me to the west end of Glasgow? Answers on a postcard please.
Gender discrimination formed part of the cyber onslaught. There are always going to be folk who rally against female doctors for no reason other than pure, unadulterated bias. We’ll still treat you though, and your family, and your friends, despite not displaying our genitals on the outside - we will strive to do our best. It may come as a surprise to some that women make up over three quarters of all NHS staff. They still struggle to get the same pay as their male counterparts in many areas. Could this fun (not fun) fact in some way contribute to the idea that we are lesser beings?
And as for my colour, doctors of colour have helped to make the NHS an institution, flawed and frayed as it is at 70.
To the haters, please remember this: doctors and other healthcare professionals are working under fierce pressures, both governmental and internal. Try and not make it harder for us when we show our human side. We’ve got your back, how about returning the favour?