Quick chat with…Dr James Thambyrajah

Why did you choose to work in general practice?

I chose to work in general practice as I believed it suited my skill set as a doctor, perfectly. I love the idea of being a doctor for my local community and having the privilege of looking after families on a regular basis. I also love the variety of general practice – I remember a few weeks ago I was examining a week old baby and 10 minutes later I was seeing an 88-year-old lady who was grieving her husband that had just passed away.

Would you choose it again?

Absolutely! I love being a GP and even though it has its challenges, it still is a job that can surprise, excite and inspire you in so many different ways!

What’s your most unforgettable memory from your practice?

I remember seeing a 54-year-old man last year who came in with a lump in his neck – after taking a detailed history , I suspected he may have lymphoma. Sadly, this was confirmed but after months of treatment, he thankfully made a full recovery. Randomly, I made a telephone call to this same gentleman a few weeks ago for a prescription query, and I said ‘ Hi Mr J, how are you? ‘ he then replied ‘ I’m fine thanks to you! If it wasn’t for you picking up that lymphoma, I wouldn’t be around! ”

That one phone call alone justified:

All that studying/revision, 
All those night shifts as a junior doctor, 
All those years of training! 
What advice do you wish you were given in your first year as a GP?

I wish I was told to focus more on the fundamentals of general practice, such as note keeping, time – keeping , wellbeing etc. As a new GP it’s easy to be distracted by conferences, courses, research, portfolio opportunities , Committee meetings and others alike. However, as one of my mentors told me recently – focus on those fundamentals and the other cool ‘add-on extras’ will come, naturally . As a result, I am learning to say NO when appropriate and just focusing on my own fundamentals.

Work/life balance – is it possible or is it a myth?

It is possible! As the husband of an anesthetist and father to 2 children who are 4 and 5 and a half respectively, you have to have to prioritise work-life balance for the sake of family cohesion. I make sure I schedule time for my family – I work half days 2 days a week so I can take my children swimming. My wife and I schedule date nights in advance. I play the violin and run regularly-these 2 activities especially help me with my wellbeing. After a long and tiring day at the practice, there’s nothing better than running through my local park listening to my favourite podcast!

What is the biggest challenge GPs (and general practice) are currently facing?

I think as a profession we are over-worked and struggle to keep up with the demand. On any given day, GPs and their respective teams see 1 million patients across the UK. I think if we are to cope with the demand, we need the government to come through on their pledge via NHS England’s GP Forward View – “£2.4bn more a year for general practice, 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 more members of the wider practice team by 2020 – to be delivered in full.”

What would you say about the general practice to medical students and young doctors who are thinking about their career options?

Even though general practice has its challenges (I will still say it is a tough job), I would tell them that it is a very rewarding career option. The variety of medicine you see and the career paths as a GP can be so diverse. I would also like to highlight the true privilege it is to be a GP for a local community and how humbling it is to play a ‘pastoral’ role for patients and their families. We are the gatekeepers of the NHS and we should be proud to deliver care to our patients.

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