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Job's not a good 'un

An unsavoury present from a patient causes Phil to reassess his worth

An unsavoury present from a patient causes Phil to reassess his worth

I've brought you this, doctor,' said my patient, and he placed an object on my desk.

I've been a GP for a long time now, and when a patient says something like this, the defences go up automatically, like deflector screens on the Starship Enterprise. It could be anything. I've been given vintage single malt whisky, a leek the size and weight of a two-year-old child, two live lobsters, and a two-pound rock from the floor of the Grand Canyon. And that's just the nice stuff.

The last-mentioned object sits on my desk at this very moment. It's a rusty red boulder with a pointed end and the intention is to use it as an aggressive weapon should the occasion ever arise. The thought crossed my mind to use it there and then, once I had recognised what my patient had brought me. Sitting on my desk was a turd in a jam jar. The jar had once contained Robertson's raspberry jam, and I was aware that my attention was focused on the label in order to avoid looking at the object within, which was a fairly average-looking jobbie, of roughly eight to 10 ounces. I imagine it looked pretty similar to the 60 million or so jobbies that pass down the nation's U-bends on a daily basis. But I couldn't swear to it.

Only one person could. 'Dr' Gillian McKeith, who makes a living out of this sort of thing, might have been motivated to take more of an interest in this than I did. Unfortunately, to me, a chod is a just a chod. After briefly noting that my patient had probably had peas for his tea last night, and possibly something containing poppy seeds, I had no further interest in his product. And I was keen to let him know.

I rolled my chair back a foot. 'What in the wide world of sports,' I enquired, 'is going on here?' My patient looked suitably apologetic. 'It was the nurse where I work.' He handles food at the local supermarket. 'A mate of mine has been off sick with this campy backter bug, and she asked me if I had had any tummy troubles. Well I had a bit of a gut ache the other day, so she sent me home and told me to bring a sample to you. She didn't say how much.'

'Any vomiting or diarrhoea?' I asked, not that I needed to ask about the diarrhoea. 'No, I feel fine.' 'Off you go home then. Enjoy your holiday. I'll let you know when you can go back to work.' Bloody Health and Safety. Now I had a dilemma. I could send this dog's egg off to the lab just as it had been presented to me, but I knew from bitter experience they would chuck it out and send me a cheery note saying 'Sample presented in an inappropriate container. Please repeat the sample according to protocol'. And the bugger would have had even more time off work.

Alternatively I could open the jar and scoop a bit into a proper pot, releasing noxious gases, putting my lunch at jeopardy and risking my next patients thinking it was me. I own the practice and employ all the staff in it, so technically I could delegate the task. But I don't dislike any of them that much. They've never done anything nasty to me.

Some time later, any observers might have seen me in the car park wearing a surgical mask and juggling two jars at arm's length. You could have approached me at that moment and asked me if I was worth my pay. And I would have explained to you, graphically, exactly why I was.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland and PPA and MJA Columnist of the Year

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