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Do a day like this, then try calling GPs lazy and overpaid

Never take less than a week off – Phil did, and now after the day from hell he’s wishing he hadn’t bothered.

Never take less than a week off – Phil did, and now after the day from hell he's wishing he hadn't bothered.

I should know better by now, but I never learn. Never, ever, take less than a full week off. Today, Wednesday, I returned from a lovely long weekend away and, within minutes of my arrival at work, I was the centre of a maelstrom.

Only yesterday I was in another world of gondola rides and fegato alla venecia. Today, by 9am, I am up to my neck in three times the usual shite.

Two days away from work is just not long enough for my practice to bother allocating any of my tasks to anyone else. In fact, the only thing they considered worthy of change was to swap my usual Tuesday on call for today, so I wouldn't feel left out of the on-call rota.

Waiting to greet me, slapped on my computer keyboard, is a post-it note: ‘Urgent: patient died on Saturday. Death certificate and crem form needed by 11am. PS. Urgent.'

Next to it is a pile of correspondence so deep that the stuff at the bottom is already turning to peat. When I switch on my computer I am presented with 60-odd investigation results to interpret, 20-odd prescription queries, four people to phone, a full surgery, three urgent extras and a reminder that I am looking after the new registrar today. And I'm on call.

Oh, and there's a two-hour ‘learning with lunch' seminar. If I can't go, I'd better have a good excuse for the PCT.

I'm about to put my foot through the screen when a receptionist arrives with a stone-and-a-half of repeat prescriptions to sign. The only sensible response to all this is to switch the computer off, pick up my bag, turn round and go back to Venice, but I don't. GPs just don't do that sort of thing. I roll up my sleeves and get on with it.

Nine hours of swimming through treacle later, I can see an end to the nightmare. I have a tension headache that is making my eyeballs pulse like belisha beacons, but there's only 10 minutes to go until six o'clock.

Then the phone goes. ‘Couple of home visit requests, doctor. I've written down the details. We're all off home, would you like a coffee before I go?' Our staff are good like that.

Old Gits

Stoical Old Git No 1 had bravely borne his abdominal pain for two days, before finally giving in 10 minutes before it wouldn't have affected me either way.

Stoical Old Git No 2 had lain on the floor overnight, called an ambulance, then refused to get in it. Over to you, doctor.

7.30pm, SOG No 1 safely dealt with, and I'm banging on the door of SOG No 2. No answer. No lights on, no answer to the phone, no one in next door. Screaming obscenities through the letterbox doesn't seem to help.

I phone A&E, they haven't heard of him. I phone the police. ‘Can you come round and help me break the door down?' As always, the bobbies are more than happy to help with a bit of licensed mayhem.

While I'm waiting, A&E phone back. ‘Glad we caught you, doctor. Yes, we have got him. He phoned another ambulance. Have you got a message for him?' As it happens I have, but I decide to keep it for later.

Reluctantly, I phone the police and cancel our date. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction, after a day like this, than to legitimately smash the bugger's front door into matchwood, but this is yet one more pleasure I have to deny myself.

Wearily I wend my way home, just in time to say goodnight to my children as they head upstairs. I fall into an armchair, pausing only briefly to grab the whisky bottle. I pick up the paper. ‘Lazy overpaid GPs miss cancer diagnoses and cause extra deaths,' it informs me.

Purposefully and deliberately, I unscrew the cap off the Famous Grouse.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Nine hours of swimming through treacle later, I can see an end to the nightmare. Then the phone goes.

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