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The docbot will see you now

Keeping it in the GP family

Unlike Alan Johnson, Phil's new punter understands the value of traditional general practice

Unlike Alan Johnson, Phil's new punter understands the value of traditional general practice

My next appointment was a new patient, visiting the practice for the first time.

As he told me about the pain in his elbow, I noticed he had a broad Hartlepool accent (my home town), but because I was running late, and there was anything up to half an hour of potential irrelevance involved, I decided not to comment on it.

We decided it was not a soft tissue problem, and as I was writing out the X-ray form he said: 'It's a funny thing, but my last doctor was called Dr Peverley as well.'

'Oh that'll be Our Kid,' I told him.

'Really?' he said. He seemed overjoyed.

'Yeah, there's only one other Dr Peverley in the country. He's my brother'.

'That's brilliant!' he told me. 'I would wait any amount of time to see him. He tells it like it is; he calls a spade a spade, you know where you are with him. He's a great doctor!'

'Of course he is,' I said. 'So whereabouts in Hartlepool are you from?' Turns out that this bloke lived a few streets away from us and went to the same primary school and comprehensive.

'So you'll know my Dad, then,' I told him. 'He was head of science, and taught biology.'

My man is practically dancing about in his seat by this time. 'Old Fred Pev? Your Dad? Never! He put me in detention loads of times,' he reminisced.

My patient had just moved up to Sunderland after getting married. I asked him if his new wife was a patient of ours too. 'No, she's registered down the road at Millfield,' he told me.

'Don't tell me,' I said, with a feeling of inevitability, 'she sees Dr Gillespie.' (My wife practises there under her maiden name.)

'How did you know?' he asked.

'Lucky guess,' I said.

By then, my man had forgotten all about his elbow and was full of enthusiasm. 'You know, I really didn't want to change doctors, but moving up here I had to.

But this is great! It's all going to be alright.'

Take that, Mr Johnson

Our esteemed health minister Alan Johnson has recently gone on record saying he doesn't care which GP he sees: a revealing comment that demonstrates both an absence of any significant illness and a complete disassociation from the opinions of the people who voted him in. A disassociation that he will come to regret.

People do care who their GP is. And of course they should.

Your relationship with your GP is a vital one, a relationship that usually becomes crucial when illness strikes, and one that has always been pivotal to the way that general practice works.

Our Government is systematically dismantling it, and they will pay the price for this in the future. The idea of Darzi clinics staffed by nurses, locums and random part-timers fills our patients with fear and dread - and understandably so. But this will not stop our political masters, for some reason, from pissing on their chips.

As my patient was leaving, he asked if I knew of any dentists in the area who were taking on NHS patients.

Well, as it happens, I did. I fished about in my wallet and gave him my sister's business card, and pointed him in the direction of her practice. His grin, if that were possible, got even wider.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley

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