General practitioner Calum Forrester-Paton explains why Penarth, South Wales offers the perfect work-life balance for him and his family.

Once we had children, we started to feel London wasn’t right for us any more

Jayne: We wanted a bigger house and more space for the kids, and had started weighing up the options. We had no real connections to Wales, but we knew we wanted nearby countryside and were very drawn by the idea of living by the sea. We did an internet search on the best places to live in the UK, and Cardiff came up. Neither of us had been there before, so we decided to visit and have a look. We happened to stay in Penarth, the town just next to Cardiff, and I fell in love with it.

Calum: My thoughts were, I’m moving from London so I’ve got to be in the most happening bit of Cardiff! But then we had our second child and our focus was suddenly much more on family life, and I began thinking that maybe I would like to slow down a little. We made another visit and thought Penarth made perfect sense. And we found out it has good schools, which was obviously high on our wish list.

children on a pier

We wanted to have everything on our doorstep

Jayne: When we were buying the house, we looked at different options and ended up buying somewhere very central in Penarth. We didn’t want to be forced to use the car all the time. I wanted to be able to walk to shops, restaurants and the train station – and being on the Welsh coast is great. We can walk out of the door, and we’re in a park in two minutes, and then the park leads down to the seafront... sometimes, even if we haven’t managed to do much in a day, we’ll say: 'Shall we just have a quick walk down to Penarth Pier?' When we do want to go into Cardiff, we can drive, take a short train ride or go by bus. It takes less than 10 minutes. We have the best of both!

You can find a high level of work satisfaction in Wales, and great opportunities for career development 

Calum: There are a couple of things I like about the Welsh working culture. It feels to me as though the partnership model is stronger in Wales than in London. More newly qualified GPs want to become partners in their surgery and take on responsibility for its policy and direction, rather than just be employees who draw a salary. And in Wales, you have this idea of 'clusters' where GP practices in the same area come together to pool their resources and provide joined-up primary care. It means I can call upon, say, physiotherapists or mental -health nurses who are effectively part of my own team.

Jayne: I suppose our jobs are unique in that you can go and practise almost anywhere. But we wanted to be near a big city like Cardiff with a teaching university in Cardiff University, so that we still had opportunities for medical education and career development. Since moving to Penarth, we've both found interesting work opportunities that we can do alongside our work as GPs. Before the pandemic, I was working in sexual health at Cardiff Royal Infirmary alongside my role as a GP. Although I have since finished working there, the job helped develop my interest in women's health. I'm now the women's health lead at my GP practice, where I've set up a menopause clinic. The hope is that we can roll out similar clinics, first across Cardiff and then possibly across Wales. 

Calum: I was working as a GP in Cardiff, doing a lot of locum work as well as working with Macmillan to help improve the standard of cancer care delivered by GPs across the region. Now, I'm a partner at a GP surgery in Penarth and a clinical cancer lead for the health board, where I work with the clinicians to help deliver and improve cancer care

Jayne: We're both really happy with the opportunities that we've had since being here. I love being a GP, but having another role alongside it keeps things varied and allows me to have a specific area of interest. It's really hard to know how our working lives would have been different in London. Because Cardiff is smaller than London, and Wales is smaller than England, we can have a greater involvement when it comes to innovation, changing things proactively and filling needs gaps. I don't feel I could’ve done that in London so easily. Here, we can have a bigger impact than we might’ve had in London. 

GP Calum Forrester-Paton walking down a corridor in the surgery
GP Calum Forrester-Paton at his desk in the surgery with a patient
General practitioner Calum Forrester-Paton

We’re planning to make the most of where we live as the children grow up

Calum: We love that we can spend a lot of quality time outdoors with our three children. When we first moved, we wanted to go walking and cycling through epic Welsh landscapes, learn to surf, go camping with the kids and explore the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons). These are all things that we do fairly regularly now.

Jayne: We had surfing lessons and bought wetsuits, which have come in very handy as we spend a lot of time in the sea. Our local beaches are beautiful for walks, swimming and other water sports. My mother lives in West Wales, so when we visit her we love bodyboarding and surfing around Pembrokeshire. Our lives are so much more outdoorsy than they ever would've been if we'd stayed in London. The possibilities here seem endless; there's always something amazing to see or do amongst nature.

This is crazy. It feels like we’re on holiday, but this is our home town."

We’ve found our forever home here in Wales

Calum: We've been here for over four years now. I can’t believe that at one point, we weren’t sure about making the move. We haven’t looked back. Everyone is really nice, the pace is slower in a small town like Penarth, and I’m outdoors more. There are fewer crowds, so doing stuff with the kids just feels so much less stressful, and doing your daily commute through such inspiring surroundings raises your spirit at the beginning and end of the working day. 

Jayne: In our first few months here, we couldn’t stop smiling and feeling really smug. There were times when we were sitting in the sunshine, looking out across the sea, when I’d say: 'This is crazy. It feels like we’re on holiday, but this is our home town.' We've found it quite easy to make lots of lovely friends, and we feel like part of a kind, helpful and happy community.

The Forrester-Paton family on Penarth beach
The Forrester-Paton family walking on Penarth Pier
The family enjoying Penarth Pier

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