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At the heart of general practice since 1960

An impressive pile of the proverbial on the stairs

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To those of you who expect this column to demonstrate some insight into the State of General Practice, I apologise. I’m not sure this one will. It’s just a story about something that happened.

I drive into work as per normal on a Monday morning. Park the car, scoop the weekend overflow paperwork from the back seat, and drag psyche and physique up the ‘doctors only’ staircase. So far, so normal. Then, halfway up, I spot it: an impressive pile of steaming excrement. In fact, because I first notice it while I’m one flight of steps below, there’s a deeply unpleasant moment when faeces and I are face to face. If poo can have a face. I think this one does. And it seems to be mocking me.

There’s something about this pile that suggests it’s of human origin. Dogs don’t crap on stairs, do they? Not even in Essex. Besides, its positioning looks deliberate and provocative. I reckon it’s a protest-poop.

Anyway. I step over it and enter the building. As I walk down the corridor, I realise I’m humming that tune once sung by Robin the Frog on The Muppet Show. You know, the ‘Halfway down the stairs’ one? Except I add an ‘h’ to the word at the end of the first line.

I break the news to my practice manager. She’s unfazed. She’s seen this type of thing before. She’s dealt with kids peeing in lifts. She’s dealt with people graffiti-ing ‘F**k you knobhead’ right over the main patient entrance. She’s even dealt with someone who responded to an antibiotic refusal by vomiting on her car. So do-dos are a doddle.

Except it doesn’t quite work out that way. Apparently, the designated crap-cleaner bloke is on holiday, and there ensues a flurry of emails to establish who can sort out this, er, issue, and how quickly.

The stand-in has not attended the relevant training (now that’s one to add to the PDP). ‘Normal’ cleaners aren’t allowed to deal with ‘this sort of thing’. So the issue is ‘escalated’ while, ironically, the excrement remains firmly on the middle step.

‘Infection control’ get involved. We are advised to keep our windows closed. Really. The phrase ‘internal matter’ is misconstrued as meaning the offending pile is indoors. More confusion. More delays. More emails. It seems it’s no one’s job. Except, obviously, it was someone’s.

Eventually, we learn that crap-busters are coming. Trouble is, they need a jetwash, and that’s currently unavailable, presumably doing some other shit. Days pass. The crap hardens and festers.

Anyway, that’s it, really. Of course, eventually – a week or two later – it’s gone. Perhaps cleaned away by someone with the right certificate, perhaps washed away by the rain. It’s definitely not there now. Oddly, we kind of miss it. There’s this brown-ring stain where it was, like the outline of a turd-murder. It seems sad, somehow.

So. An absolutely crap, stinking job that no one wants to touch and is strangely missed when it’s gone.

Like I said, nothing whatsoever to do with the State of General Practice.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield 

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Readers' comments (22)

  • Excellent

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  • brilliant

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  • A particularaly descriptive metaphor

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  • please send this article with a small sample to jeremy..would improve the smell in his office.

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  • What a Kafkaesque carry-on just to get rid of some poo. I would have cleaned it up using a copy of the Daily Mail.

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  • that is really funny!!

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  • surely it would be cleaner to use the poop to pick up the daily mail.

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  • Last week it was left to me to clean the toilet after someone seemed incapable of aligning their backside and the bowl and blithely wandering off without so much as an attempt at flushing thereafter.

    6 years of medical school, 20 years since qualification....

    Still I do spend most of my days clearing up other peoples' s**t so this was no different!

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  • I once had to investigate a poo on the floor of a loo in a community hospital, which was carefully guarded until my arrival, practically by yellow and black hazrd crime scene tape. Unfortunate patient, unwell, bit doddery, missed, very embarrassed. Cleaner said I'm not touching that, it's biological waste innit, not in my contract. Nurse said I haven't got time to sort that out, I've got paperwork. HCAS said I'm too busy looking after 27 patients. Senior nurse said I've got a meeting. Poo festered. So I cleaned it up. There were a few minutes of silence as I did so. No one could quite believe something that caused so much fuss could be sorted so quickly. I'm sure I should've filled in 27 forms and worn a hazmat suit and been vaccinated for something or other, but I just couldn't be bothered.

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  • Vinci Ho

    That's what they call ' Sh*t happens everyday' and that is the insight of our current general practice.
    It does not help that we have a Sh*t Stirring Stick, SSS,(a Cantonese slang) called Agent H.

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From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder