How Alcoholics Are Leaving GPs Bewildered

Most parents hope their children will grow up to be healthy, happy and well-rounded individuals, with fulfilling and successful careers. Law, engineering, software development, medicine… working in those fields can be satisfying and handsomely paid. But – although the money’s good – is being a doctor these days really all it’s cracked up to be? Not according to many GPs (speaking strictly off the record) it’s not:

“Of course, alcoholism is a disease, and sufferers rightfully receive as much care and help as the NHS can offer; but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t get to me: appointment after appointment being spent solely dealing with alcoholism, I mean.”
Angus, a GP in Scotland

“I didn’t train for several years to be a doctor, and then put years of work in, to end up spending most of my day – every day of the working week, in fact – dealing primarily with alcoholics, to be quite honest.”
Catherine, a GP in England’s North West

“Sometimes I don’t feel like a General Practitioner at all, but a medical professional who specialises in helping alcohol abusers, binge drinkers, problem drinkers, or whatever you want to call anyone who is simply addicted to alcohol.”
Peter, a GP in England’s South East

“I am seriously considering retraining for a new career. Seven out of ten prescriptions I issue for patients on any given week at Practice are for alcoholism or alcohol-related conditions. I’ve had enough.”
Bethan, a GP in Wales

So, will young people still want to train to be doctors, nurses and other types of healthcare professionals if all they can see in front of them is years of dealing with alcohol addicts? As alcohol consumption rises at alarming rates year-on-year across the UK, will it become increasingly difficult to entice the country’s youth into the medical profession?

It certainly seems so:

  • “I’ve been a GP for just two years and I’m already regretting my choice of career,” Giles in the South West explains. “Most of my friends at Uni also studied medicine and then set about forging careers in healthcare. Without exception, all of them are disillusioned with their jobs simply because of the amount of time taken up during any given week in dealing with alcohol-related health problems.”
  • “It sounds heartless, and I know that alcoholism is an illness, a disease…” Bernadette, a young GP in Northern Ireland, explains, “…but I find it extremely difficult at times to quell the frustration I feel when patients in my Medical Practice’s catchment area can’t get an appointment when they really need one, purely because all the slots are already booked: taken by people with an alcohol-related illness or injury.”

And it is not ‘just’ GPs, nurses and healthcare assistants working at medical practices, hospitals and other types of health facilities in our cities and towns who share the feelings of irritation, disillusionment and cynicism over the issue of alcoholics ‘hogging healthcare’; many pharmacists are also seeking to retrain for completely different careers as the repetitive nature of their work* inevitably takes its toll.

* Drugs prescribed to treat alcoholism have soared by almost 75 per cent in nine years, latest figures show. Nearly 180,000 prescriptions for drugs (including Antabuse, which halts drinking by causing nausea and vomiting when alcohol is consumed) were issued last year, a 6 per cent increase on the previous year (source: The Independent online).


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