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No access nonsense for me

Proud to have the worst access rates in the county, Copperfield explains why he's willing to lose a couple of grand not to bother with trivia

Proud to have the worst access rates in the county, Copperfield explains why he's willing to lose a couple of grand not to bother with trivia

I don't often get bragging rights so I'm making the most of these. My practice has the worst access rates in the county. Official.

Hardly any of my patients can get a same-day appointment, even fewer are able to see the doctor of their choice and the chances of any of them booking a slot for the following week are about the same as their being named as junior health minister in the next Cabinet reshuffle.

There are many reasons for this and none of them have anything to do with patient care or quality of service.

Long long ago, in a town not far away, a neighbouring practice succumbed to a monstrous attack of the cardigans. Every patient who wanted to be seen on the day was seen on the day, no ifs, no buts. 'Wayne blew his nose and this sticky green thing came out...', 'Channelle has just started her periods and it's the school disco tonight...', 'I want this skin tag looked at now because I'm off to Ibiza on Saturday and I don't want it to turn cancerous...' - no request was too trivial, bizarre or outrageous.

Come one, come all, it's all free, it's all good.

Over the following year the GPs' attrition rate rivalled that of first world war fighter pilots and bomb-disposal trainees with intention tremors. At the end of every working day, GPs with no psychiatric previous were blubbing like toddlers who'd left their favourite Teddy on the bus. Those about to take on the night shift started hearing voices.

They took more sick leave than I take holiday and, believe me, I don't stint on that. Assistants would appear, work a couple of days, take fright and run for the hills - and that's no mean feat in Essex. The only winners were the locums who signed on to see a finite number of patients, spent two or three minutes with each one - which admittedly may well have been far more than their presenting conditions actually warranted - and then went home at 10.30 for a long and leisurely lunch.

Which is why it's always been different at Copperfield Towers. To get a same-day appointment contestants have to speak to a proper doctor and convince them that the matter is indeed urgent.

At the start of each session Phone Doc has 12 'walking wounded' slots to fill with deserving souls. Once, I filled four of them. Often I don't book any. It's not that I'm workshy or vindictive. It's just that once I've established that Billy can walk on his 'badly sprained' ankle or that his 'terrible sore throat' only started yesterday, I can tell his mum that Morrison's is a veritable treasure trove of heavily discounted ibuprofen. Which is exactly what I would have done if she had been given the appointment she'd asked for.

She's had exactly the same advice without waiting for hours to hear it. In the real world, she's better off. If she bitches about being denied 'access' when the guy with the clipboard turns up on her doorstep at the end of the year it might cost me a couple of grand.

But if it means I don't waste hours on trivia it's got to be worth it.


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