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My new home visit deterrent - a big, unwieldy truck

Both of Geoff's cars are off the road. The surgery has a bike, but he's drawn more to borrowing his mechanic's truck because patients might think twice about asking for a home visit if they think their flower beds are in danger.

Both of Geoff's cars are off the road. The surgery has a bike, but he's drawn more to borrowing his mechanic's truck because patients might think twice about asking for a home visit if they think their flower beds are in danger.

I pride myself in being environmentally aware. In fact, I was delighted to discover that the surgery has a "practice bike". No doubt given enough sunny days (or at least dry days) the patients of the surrounding villages will soon become used to the site of me on the bike, tie flapping in the wind.

It will come as no surprise that they love it. One old chap I remember kept slapping his thigh and laughing about seeing a doctor on a bike. In fact he laughed so heartily and for so long I began to seriously wonder if he had warranted the home visit.

Yesterday was somewhat peculiar. You see, both of my cars went in for maintenance on the same day. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed the plural noun.

Yes, my eco-warrior stance is dented by the fact that I not only have two cars but both have engine sizes big enough to drive the tax into the stratosphere (this I don't mind, I must add. In fact, I have just now renewed my carbon neutral programme. I recycle. I do my best. Honestly. Please don't hate me).

So I dropped off the first car and was bemused when my mechanic offered me his pickup as a loaner. We go back a few years, he and I, and we have developed a degree of trust. Plus the tax on the courtesy car was out.

Now, this truck was longer than my living room. Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous. The first challenge was releasing the handbrake.

I sat there, peering about, and I thought to myself (in true male fashion) "This isn't rocket science. I have letters after my name. I am not going to get out and ask him where the handbrake is, dammit."

So, for future reference: if ever presented with a pickup truck large enough to hold several farm animals, the handbrake is a large pull lever beneath the steering wheel.

Having got used to that, adjusting to the rather ocean-going handling came as no problem. In fact I was soon enjoying myself. No wonder these things are so often driven recklessly – they do lend a rather impervious feel.

I found myself thinking about the old home visit phenomenon. I thought, perhaps the bicycle is sending the wrong message. Debate amongst yourselves, but I'm not sure home visits are to be encouraged.

For example, take the sad but true visit of last week. I said to the patient over the phone "Mrs. Smith, you've banged your shin on your coffee table. Of course you're going to have a bruise." "But I'm so worried, doctor. I'm so worried. What if it's a clot?"

So after about the fifth or sixth time she used the word "worried" I reluctantly saddled up and pedalled out. Twenty minutes later I established that it was indeed a bruise. But imagine this scenario:

"OK Mrs Smith" (funny how so many patients around here are called Smith) "I'll come out to you. But I'm coming out in the truck. And as there is so little space in your lane I WILL park in your flower bed."

Geoff Tipper

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