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BMA writing competition

Writing competition, one small thing
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For this year’s BMA writing competition, we asked you for ‘one small thing’ you would change or had changed to make life better. Your answers revealed much about the joys and pressures of being a doctor, says Neil Hallows

Seed potatoes have no place in the British National Formulary but perhaps their time has come.

Many words, drugs and treatments are exchanged in primary care but, for Penny Ballinger, it was her gift of those half a dozen seed potatoes to a patient that had a transformational effect.

Dr Ballinger is the winner of this year’s BMA writing competition – read her entry below.

We asked you for ‘one small thing’ you’d change or have changed to make life better for you, your patients and other doctors.

Dr Ballinger’s entry describes, in touching and vivid detail, a ‘bear of a man’, a Polish immigrant, who spoke of pain but whose ‘narrative resonated more with anger and depression’. He had lost his job, recently undergone cancer treatment, and rarely saw friends.

However, he had an allotment and thanks to Dr Ballinger’s intervention his life bloomed.

It lacks animals or pop stars but it’s a story that could be an advert for one of the big department stores (speaking of which, Dr Ballinger, a medically qualified advanced nurse practitioner from Gloucestershire, wins a £250 voucher and a framed copy of the illustration we have commissioned for her piece). It’s also a tribute to the kindness, insight and subtlety which happens every day in primary care, largely unnoticed.

Read the winning story


Previous winners

  • 2018 runners up

    I'm not OK

    Facing bereavement, money problems and exam stress, Ayesha Shahid’s answer when asked how she was coping was always the same – I’m OK. She wasn’t, and, in a piece which was a runner-up in this year’s BMA.

    Writing competition, she makes an impassioned plea for doctors to seek out the help they need.

    Read the story

    An opt-out too far

    Parents who decide to forego vaccinating their children place others at risk, says BMA writing competition runner-up Susannah George.

    Read the story

    A wall of hostility

    Everyone remembers their first day on their wards. Lily Snow's was awful, and her entry is a plea for other doctors not to be similarly belittled.

    Read the story

    A job's worth

    Are the many NHS managers with funny sounding titles as important as they think they are? Hilary Aitken has come up with a simple test.

    Read the story

  • Read the winning entries from 2017

    Doing the right thing

    Creative Writing Competition

    This year's winner of the 2017 writing competition is Andrew Papanikitas

    'I don’t think we should be doing this.' Sarah turned to face the group to say: 'I’m not going to, and I don’t think any of us should either.'

    Read the winning entry


    Why I walked away

    Entry No6 BMA writing competition 2017

    Lily McRae is a public health registrar. She writes under a pseudonym, and was one of the runners-up in this year’s BMA writing competition

    'To my patients, I feel an incredible sense of loss and an incredible sense of failure.'

    Read the entry


    A dirty business

    Entry No3, BMA writing competition, 2017, BMA news

    Jo Cannon is a GP in Sheffield. She won the BMA writing competition in 2012 and 2015

    ‘I will never tell anyone what happened to me. I don’t want my children to know.’

    Read the entry


    We did the right thing – but for who?

    Writing competition illustration entry No.5 BMA News

    Lloyd Bradley is a consultant in rehabilitation medicine based in West Sussex. He won the BMA writing competition in 2014.

    ‘The young woman had travelled a long way to die. She had written a note with a blue Biro on plain white paper.’

    Read the entry


    An admission of guilt

    writing competition no. 8

    Jennie Higgs is a clinical teaching fellow in psychiatry in Edinburgh.

    ‘I almost said: 'OK, we will admit you.' But I didn’t.’

    Read the entry