A day in the life of . . . a GP and Medical Director at DHC

Dr Stewart Tomlinson, GP and DHC Medical Director shares a typical day and explains the diverse role he provides to patients across Surrey.

I work at Medwyn Surgery in Dorking, caring for a population of approximately 11,500 patients. We are proud to be rated as an Outstanding Practice by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

I always wanted to be a doctor and trained at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel – a leading teaching hospital. When I qualified, I initially wanted to become a Vascular Surgeon and started my training.  However, I quite quickly realised that I preferred the variety of work in Accident and Emergency (A&E), or General Practice (GP) and decided to pursue that field. Being a GP enables me to provide a continuity of care for my patients in a community setting.

I have worked with Dorking Healthcare (DHC) as one of its founding members since 2005. DHC was originally formed by local GPs to provide high quality, local and timely outpatient appointments for the patients of Dorking practices. In recent years we have widened our mission to provide services to patients throughout Surrey and Sussex. I was appointed as the organisation’s Medical Director in 2016. In this role, I am responsible for leading the medical, nursing and therapy teams within DHC and ensuring that all decisions relevant to clinical practice meet the highest standards.

My week is extremely varied. I spend approximately 3 days working as a GP. As one of the Minor Ops clinicians at the Practice, I hold a clinic every fortnight for the removal of lumps and bumps; removal of cysts; ingrowing toenail removal and joint injections. The rest of my week is divided between my role as Joint Clinical Lead for Diabetes at Surrey Downs CCG and as Joint Clinical Lead for Diabetes across Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnerships; working at East Surrey Hospital in Redhill as a GP with a Specialist Interest (GPSI) in Diabetes; specialist work as an Occupational Health (branch of medicine that focuses on the physical and mental wellbeing of employees in the workplace) physician for NHS, charity and private clients and as a GP Trainer.

A typical working day starts with an hour of admin before I start seeing patients at 8:30 am. Surgery runs for 3 and a half hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. I spend approximately 2 to 3 hours each day completing clinical paperwork and visiting housebound patients who are unable to come to the practice. It is unusual to finish work before 7:30pm and then I spend time responding to emails.

The field of General Practice is incredibly fulfilling and diverse. There is complete unpredictability relating to what a patient will present with in each 10-minute consultation. The challenge is to unravel symptoms in order to come up with diagnosis.  Significant advances in last ten years have given GPs the opportunity to manage patients with complex medical problems, which previously would never have been possible. Making a difficult diagnosis, having this confirmed by a Specialist and being able to improve a patient’s quality of life is extremely satisfying.

My greatest professional achievements so far have been completing my Master in Diabetes in 2007, which has enabled me to develop my career-long interest in diabetes. Working as a GPSI in diabetes puts you in a unique position because you understand the role of primary care but also an appreciation of Specialists in outpatient clinics. I speak at a number of regional and national diabetes meetings, focusing on the redesign of diabetes services and the delivery of care outside a traditional hospital setting.  I am also on the Editorial Board for the peer-reviewed publication, Diabetes and Primary Care. My role as a GP in Dorking for 20 years has enabled me to develop my skills, knowledge, experience and working with patients to make decisions about their care and treatment has been, and continues to be, a real accomplishment. My involvement in the work at DHC has enabled the delivery of medical care close to patients’ homes in a way that would never have been foreseen in the past. Being a part of DHC as Medical Director is incredibly rewarding.

Through my work as Clinical Lead for Diabetes across Surrey Heartlands and Medical Director at DHC, my professional ambition is to ensure that all patients in our area are offered world-class care.