The EBPC GP Experience: Dr Sunanda Sharma

Want to find out first-hand what it’s like to work for EBPC as an out of hours GP?

Dr Sunanda Sharma explains all;

As an experienced GP I am in my third year of working for EBPCOOH service. In my two decades as a GP, I have worked as a partner, GP locum, and have been a six-session, salaried GP for the last four years, until I decided to move solely into Out of Hours.

In my salaried post, I was increasingly assigned to the duty doctor role. I found myself having to ‘triage’ some 60-70 calls per day, from patients demanding appointments on the day and having very little to offer them other than a handful of slots with the team. In order to see them myself, in between telephone triage, I would need to put my neck on the line and take an increasing number of risks through managing them quickly with telephone advice only. Despite efforts to improve the situation in-house, I reached a point where I was unable to justify the risk and, although hesitant to leave the regularity of my salaried post, I took the plunge and moved into the unknown world of working for out-of- hours.

The transition turned out to be much smoother than I could ever have hoped for. I initially signed up with two out-of- hours organisations, one of which was EBPC, to ensure I had an adequate selection of working slots. Increasingly, I was booking work with EBPC and now work solely for EBPC, as it works well on all levels.

Through working in out of hours, I have re-discovered my joy in clinical work. First of all, there is a personal touch to the infrastructure and support. We know the faces behind the names in emails. Denise (Spiller) and Natasha (Marshall), who are based in the office, always seem be contactable and respond promptly. They are always willing to help with any query or issue, or, pass me onto someone who can help. I have had help from them in matters such as ensuring I am able to access free CPR training, to finding out where I can get my personal medical equipment calibrated.

I have met various members of the team at different sites when they come in to ensure things are running smoothly, or when there might be issues at a site. For example, I was surprised to meet Natasha one weekend when she came in to the GP base. The only patients’ toilet was out of order, but her attendance ensured the problem was promptly resolved. On another occasion, I met Patrick (Rogan) when he came in to ensure that the new PMC set up was running smoothly.

During work sessions, whether at a GP base or during telephone triage, I have always had the confidence that I can readily access the support of a knowledgeable duty manager. This applies to any issues that I encounter with extra challenges. If there are complexities with, for example, an atypical case on the telephone triage list, then a quick and instant message to the team in the call centre usually results in a prompt resolution. Previously, I have raised a significant event as a result of a clinical case at Wexham Park. On being alerted to this event, The Clinical Governance support ensured that I was able to discuss the matter with the clinical lead. Following on from that, the subsequent learning points were promptly circulated to all the GPs in out-of- hours. Furthermore, The Clinical Guardian audits of randomised cases allow charts and collated, individualised feedback to be downloaded for annual GP appraisals.

At the bases, the experienced receptionists are a good support when trying to track down information, although these days, with the General Practitioner Manual, one is usually able to access information promptly oneself. The car drivers too, are a great support and almost without exception, my experiences have shown me that they all take ownership in providing an excellent service.

The support network described above gives me the confidence to manage my clinical load effectively and to the best of my ability. I enjoy working a mixture of sessions, and in addition to the base, car sessions or telephone triage sessions, I do A&E shifts at Wexham Park Hospital. The flexibility and variety of work in types of shifts and locations ensures enjoyment in work.

The two week notice period to cancel a booked shift, also gives me the flexibility I need in managing my other commitments or late changes in one’s plans. I have a couple of regular shifts that I work and I also take on some ad hoc shifts, particularly during busy periods or during the Winter pressures period when some regular shifts can be added in without increasing one’s indemnity payments.

Any downsides, I hear you ask? Only that I have to manage my work and rest periods and ensure a nap at the right time!

My new way of working has given me a great work-life balance. The high level of patient satisfaction, along with the out-of-hours care that I see, both through immediate verbal feedback to me, and in patient satisfaction questionnaires, gives me immense job satisfaction.

Would you like to become part of the EBPC out-of-hours GP team? Apply now.