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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Don't have a pot to pee in

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I must admit that it had never crossed my mind.

During routine ‘It hurts when I pee’ phone calls, when I say that I’d like to dip test a sample of urine, preferably the patient’s own and supplied in some form of watertight container before prescribing, I’d never wondered who the Specimen Pot Fairy might be.

My drawer is always half-full of transparent perspex pots complete with sticky label. It might seem more sensible to have the label packaged separately, to be filled in on a flat surface while still dry and stuck to the bottle later, rather than forcing patients to attempt to achieve ballpoint traction over a urine sodden surface but I’m never caught short, supply wise.

It seems that the Mysterious Stranger who replenishes my pee pot supply on a ‘just in time’ basis with admirable frequency, hasn’t got the contract to supply the whole NHS. A few Trusts’ labs simply don’t supply them to GPs free of charge and some of us are losing sleep over charging patients 20p for the privilege of having a pot to pee into. It’s a situation that needs to be managed with sensitivity, one that’s even been described as a culture shock. But only by me. On Twitter.

We can all look forward to reliving the days when apparently grateful patients would arrive at the surgery clutching whisky bottles, only to disappoint us with a cystitis-based history.

Twenty pence doesn’t sound like a lot of money to extort from a patient who would probably hand over £20 without hesitation for the key to the patients’ toilet as a matter of urgency. And if patients elected to buy their own supply in advance, they’d pay £2 each for them online, although that obviously includes P&P.

The burning issue is that the NHS is now so poor that it doesn’t even have a pot to piss in, an expression that dates back to the days when local leather tanners would pay up front by the steaming bottle full. I’d volunteer to forward all the day’s samples, if the Trust could sell it on at a profit, but it seems the bottom has fallen out of market in micturition. If your favourite Aunt gets cystitis anytime soon but doesn’t want to spend twenty pennies, it could be a case of Tant pis.

*Gratuitous dysuric references in italics

Readers' comments (2)

  • Peter Swinyard

    Best urine specimen I was presented with, some 20 years ago, was in a Body Shop pot labelled Honey Water. I left it, with contents, on my desk when I had a patient coming in whom I knew to be sticky fingered. Duly, she nicked it when she thought I was not looking. Hope she enjoyed.

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  • I remember, in the days when one did such things, arranging a 3-day faecal fat collection for an elderly gent who duly returned it to my surgery (which was my home then) in an open plastic bucket, having lost the form and forgotten the instructions...

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From: Copperfield

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