Dr. Ayan Introduces the Body MOT

The need for generalists, life as a GP & how Body MOT can help you stay healthy for 2016

An Interview with Dr. Ayan Panja

On the verge of the launch of our Body MOT, Beagle Street sat down with collaborator Dr. Ayan Panja, to find out a little more about keeping healthy for 2016.

Beagle Street: Hello Ayan, we’re so happy to have you on board for our Body MOT project. For anyone that’s used the tool, it’s clear you have a real passion for health awareness. What is it that keeps you inspired about your role as a GP?

Dr. Ayan: What inspires me is being able to help people feel better and maintain their health by being a good a medical detective. It’s the patients that make my job so rewarding.

I also love the variety – I see so many different people and it matters not if you are a multimillionaire or have barely a penny to your name – we are all the same when it comes to health.

Beagle Street: I can see that you’ve brought that ‘detective’ nature through with the guide, but I guess it will be frustrating not to be able to see each person that uses the tool in person. On that note, what are the things that frustrate you as a GP?

Dr. Ayan: A lack of time; the enormous workload and lack of investment in the NHS frustrates me!

My standard working day involves:
• seeing 40 patients face to face with several things to discuss
• 10 patient phone calls
• writing around 10 letters or scan requests
• reading and acting upon 80 hospital letters
• going on 2 home visits
• checking about 50 lab results
• doing 100 prescriptions
• completing medical reports

It’s a lot! Think about that how long that would all take to do properly if you added up the time in hours – it’s just one day’s work. Add in meetings and people trying to constantly get hold of you by phone, writing you notes and emails and it means life is certainly never dull…

Beagle Street: We know you are also very passionate on aetiology. Can you explain a bit about what it is and why it means so much to you?

Dr. Ayan: Sure – aetiology is the root cause of an illness or disease. I feel it has been forgotten in modern medicine because of the pace of modern life and society’s need for quick fixes.

Beagle Street: We also know that you lead from the front in defending the importance of generalist practice. For those who haven’t seen it, you recently gave a hugely inspiring TEDx talk in Bedford.

Could you quickly summarise how you feel about this and the type of perceptions you wish would be debunked?

Dr. Ayan: Absolutely. I think we are entering an era of super-generalism – joining up the dots in a complex network of information. Specialists are essential and can cover all bases between them, but someone needs to tie it all together to make sense of the bigger picture, and that’s where generalists come into their own. The key difference is that generalists have enormous breadth of knowledge and are better at predicting outcomes, whereas specialists have huge depth of knowledge and strive for certainty.

Beagle Street: I guess that’s where Body MOT comes into its own – you’re able to give advice on all sorts of things to look out for without needing to know about each to a highly specialist degree, which gives our audience exactly the overview they need.

How important would you say performing regular health checks is to prevent serious and less serious illnesses impacting an average person’s life?

Dr. Ayan: I think checking is important. The quicker you get the heads up about something that might be wrong, the quicker you can get it checked out. Of course, more important than that is staying healthy with a good nutrient rich diet and lots of exercise.

Beagle Street: Obviously, I’d imagine you’d encourage people to check their bodies but at the same time not become too preoccupied with doing this that they forget to enjoy life! How often would you recommend to do the checks as laid out in the Body MOT?

Dr. Ayan: It’s a good question and, to be honest, there’s no right answer to this. Every few months is adequate. For instance, there is no evidence that breast self-examination saves lives, but it is important to be breast aware. Looking out for changes in any body part or system is an ongoing process. A good time to do it may be when you’re having a bath. The main thing is not to ignore a new finding.

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Beagle Street: We actually ran a survey to go alongside this and found that 17% of UK males (approximately 4.2 million men) stated that they never check their bodies for signs of critical illnesses. Why do you think some people are so unwilling to get checked? Is it for fear, shame, lack of time…?

Dr. Ayan: The figures don’t necessarily surprise me, although significant. Men are often brought up to man up and just crack on with things when they’re feeling ill. There are lots of reasons and, to be fair, things are improving but they are still around twice less likely to visit the doctor than a woman. Part of it is being brought up to crack on [despite ailments and illnesses], and another element is that doctors surgeries have historically been baby and woman friendly. It’s the flip side of how most women might have felt some years ago in a mechanic’s workshop.

Beagle Street: What about fear of wasting a GP’s time though? 30% of people say that they visit their GP less than once a year for a check-up for this very reason. And 36% stated that going to the GP for regular checks is not appropriate at any age. How would you respond to this? Are they right to avoid you?!

Dr. Ayan: No – I think an annual check-up is a good idea, especially if you have any ongoing health concerns or strong family history of illnesses. Some people may genuinely not need to see a doctor, but they should be aware of any unexplained changes in their body and keep a check on their blood pressure. We GPs are best equipped to monitor those things.

It’s true that people think that going to the doctor is a waste of time and I guess that’s down to people’s experience of life, death and health all being different. Some people think “what will be will be” and others use heuristics to justify bad habits like “My uncle smoked every day and he lived until he was 90….” not acknowledging that their uncle was the exception and not the rule. That’s the important thing to get across.

Beagle Street: How much value do you think Body MOT has in helping people check themselves more, lead a healthy lifestyle and help prevent serious and less serious illnesses?

Dr. Ayan: I think Body MOT raises awareness which is important. If it’s on your radar, it may just give you a nudge to at least think more about your health and wellbeing… and that’s got to be a good thing

Beagle Street: Our research has shown that 62% of the UK population do not feel confident performing a comprehensive check-up on themselves at home. I imagine you would agree that the Body MOT is a good way to improve confidence?

Dr. Ayan: Yes I do. The basic rule is that if something feels out of the ordinary to you about your body – get it checked out.

Beagle Street: Thank you Dr. Ayan – just one more question before we let you go. What do you feel are the most important things to do to stay healthy moving into the New Year? Any new-year-new-you recommendations for those wanting to live a healthy 2016?

Dr. Ayan: It’s an old cliché but it is true: eat a high nutrient diet, exercise regularly, sleep well, make time to rest your mind. Oh, and if you smoke, stop!