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At the heart of general practice since 1960

My nightmare next door

Every GP has a patient from hell. Phil’s latest has just moved in – next door to the surgery

Every GP has a patient from hell. Phil's latest has just moved in – next door to the surgery

We all have our nightmare patient. Let me tell you about mine. She was a student at Sunderland ‘University', so in a sense she was never going to be the worst patient EVER. She would be with our practice for only three years tops, and very few Sunderland University students make it that far. I was right. She was gone in 18 months. But what an eventful 18 months.

She lived in the student residence next door, but luckily she phoned to tell us to expect her before her first appointment.

She had requirements. How hot was the waiting room? ‘Dunno,‘ said our receptionist, ‘not too hot, not too cold.'

Our patient hummed and hawed but decided to risk it, on one condition: ‘You have to seat me next to an electric socket'.

‘Why?' asked our receptionist.

‘Brittle asthma,' replied our heroine.

Half our staff were lurking behind the reception desk to see her arrive, and she didn't disappoint. She had a nebuliser strapped to her back like one of the guys in Ghostbusters, and held the mask like a talisman. She had also acquired a sidekick; a sad-looking young man who ran beside her holding the plug for her nebuliser, playing Igor to her Dr Frankenstein.

Our receptionist wordlessly pointed at a socket, and young man plugged her in and hovered by the on/off switch in case of a sudden bronchospasm.

Despite daily consultations, none of us saw any evidence she had asthma. Nor did any of the doctors at A&E, who saw her on a similarly frequent basis. Eventually she disappeared. I assume the trust fund ran out and she had to go back to the Home Counties to marry some Nigel. Toodle-pip.

However, it's a shock to find your nightmare patient in your present, not your past. I am always suspicious of people who buy houses very close to a doctor's surgery. This guy was in reception while the removal vans were still unloading, with a repeat prescription list the length of a respectable short story.

A day later he was back; clutching his chest and staggering around reception. No doctors were in so the girls called an ambulance. Two days later he was out with the unhelpful (but entirely usual) diagnosis of ‘non-cardiac chest pain'.

That was yesterday. Today, I took a call from him. ‘Pain all over!' Gasp gasp. ‘Can't breathe!' Gasp gasp. ‘It's this new tablet they gave me!' Gasp… oh, you get the idea.

‘What is this new tablet?' I asked.

‘Let me have a look.' I noticed he forgot to gasp for a while. ‘Cloppy-dog something .'

‘Don't take any more,' I said, ‘and phone us in few days if you don't feel any better.'

Twenty minutes later I had a screaming daughter on the phone. ‘He's lost the use of his legs!' she yelled.

Tweaking the blinds I could actually see the bugger, standing hands on hips in his window, looking remarkably undistressed. So I told her: ‘I'm not going to visit him.'

‘I'm going to complain about you!' she bellowed.

‘Such is your right,' I told her, ‘but bring him to the surgery if you're worried.'

This man will never get a home visit from us, while I breathe. Let the battle of wills commence.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Dr Phil Peverley

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