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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Homeopathy is rubbish - and you can't have it

It’s Phil’s practice and he’ll do what he wants to, as a patient seeking homeopathy discovers

It's Phil's practice and he'll do what he wants to, as a patient seeking homeopathy discovers

‘You're running very late, Dr Peverley. I've been sitting in that waiting room for half an hour!'

I bridled. While it's perfectly true that most of the time I am running very late, on this occasion I wasn't. ‘I am 10 minutes behind,' I told the lady. ‘That might be classified as a touch tardy, but it's not very late. You arrived 20 minutes before your appointment time.'

This opening gambit put me on the defensive. I've been a GP for 15 years, and as I see around 150 patients a week, I calculate that I've had 112,500 patient consultations in my career so far, and that's factoring in holidays. Of all those patients, fewer than a dozen have complained to my face about my timekeeping (although many hundreds more have complained to our receptionists and then kept schtum when they saw me. Cowards).

This particular lady was not a regular patient of mine and, as it soon transpired, not a great fan of general practice as a whole. She had spent the best part of the last week running to the toilet every 10 minutes to piss a couple of teaspoonfuls of what felt like battery acid.

The bottle of arnica (or whatever the hell it was) had not made any difference. As a last resort, she had consulted her GP.

‘It sounds very much to me like you have a urinary tract infection,' I told her. ‘We'll take a urine sample, but in the meantime I'll give you a prescription for this antibiotic. It'll probably do the job, but I'll tell you the day after tomorrow if it's the wrong one.'

‘It's a chemical, isn't it?' she queried.

‘Well, yes, it is. Like everything else you consume.'

‘I'd rather have something natural, from a plant' she told me.

‘I'd rather be at home watching telly, but life's not like that,' I parried. Her brow furrowed.

‘Why don't you do homeopathy at this surgery?' she asked.


A crock of shite


I don't normally get involved in arguments about homeopathy, because people who want to argue in its favour are, by definition, people who cannot manage a rational argument, but she was provoking me.

‘Because it's a crock of shite,' I told her.

I had pressed the wrong button. Five minutes later, after a farrago of specious garbage, she asked me why I wasn't listening to my patients and providing the service they demanded.

‘Because you're the only one who's ever asked for it, because it's ludicrous and nonsensical, and because this is my practice and I don't want it and won't have it. Any further questions?'

She didn't have any, but I could tell she wasn't happy. I suspect I won't be seeing much more of her in the future, although I'm willing to bet she took the cefalexin.

In 15 years I cannot remember a single patient who presumed to dictate which medical philosophy I should be delivering. As for her accusation about not listening to what my patients want, I'm always listening – but what they want and what they get are often entirely different things.

She had absorbed the Government's ‘patient choice' mantra but failed to realise the treatment I might offer might not include all the options she felt should be within her rights. I doubt she'll be the last patient with this attitude. ‘If you want homeopathy, you could always go and see a homeopath,' I advised her.

‘But I don't want to pay for it,' she told me. ‘I want to see one here.'

I wonder if the Darzi polyclinics will fulfil her desires.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

I'm always listening to what my patients want - but what they want and what they get are often entirely different things

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