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CAMHS won't see you now

One more request and I will pop

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‘My dad said to tell you,’ she says, ‘that his great aunt is one of your patients too, and she keeps going dizzy. Could you pop in to see her next time you’re passing?’

Just pop in? Next time I’m passing?

There I am on a visit to an elderly patient (chest infection, off legs) – as arranged with her son – only to discover that he’s not there and he’s told his daughter to tell me, while I’m seeing his mum, to visit his great aunt, too. A massive family tree is growing before my very eyes and I’m being asked to swing from branch to branch, sweeping up the infirm elderly as I go. 

‘So could you, doctor? Could you just pop in?’

Pop in? POP IN? 

I don’t do popping in. A visit is either necessary or it’s not. Usually not. I can’t remember the last time I popped anywhere. What’s going on? Have I mysteriously slipped into another space-time continuum? Has everything reverted from glorious technicolour to black and white? Am I, in fact, carrying a Gladstone bag, doing my rounds and, en route, sipping opportunistic cuppas made by solicitous old ladies?

No, of course I’m bloody not. Which begs the question, exactly what era of general practice do these people think we’re in, exactly? Jeez. We’re the 8-to-8, 24/7, 111 generation. I’m a consultant in family medicine, not some sort of ‘heals-on-wheels’ service. This son/nephew/serial visit-requester could have booked his great aunt an appointment online. He could have arranged an extended hour slot in the evening or on Saturday. She could have had a telephone consultation. She could have Skyped. In fact, he could have Skyped his great aunt falling in real time for me to play back in slow-mo to help me work out the exact cause. The possibilities are endless – although they definitely end some way short of ‘popping in’.

Don’t these people realise the pressure we’re under? Don’t they understand that every minute of every day is planned and accounted for? Doesn’t this man appreciate that when I’m not consulting, repeat prescribing, dictating, teaching, seeing urgents, QOFing, attending commissioning meetings, manually filling in CQRS, making phonecalls, wading through NHS 111 ‘communications’, wondering about federating and writing care plans for the unplanned admissions DES – which ironically is aimed at people just like his mum and great aunt who, by virtue of inappropriate ‘just pop in’ requests, distract me from that very task – then, yes, I might do a visit or two in a very planned, organised, focused manner, without a trace of popping, to patients who are housebound and sick and require my attention in a very specific way?

This is not a world where popping in happens.

I notice that, by this time, I’m staring into space and dribbling a bit, and the daughter is looking at me in an odd way. And I realise, too, that I really fancy a cup of tea.

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘I’ll just pop in. On my way back to the surgery.’

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield

Readers' comments (14)

  • Funny but all too sadly true of our current state in General Practice! Great article!

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  • I think the popping in thing came in when patients decided GP services are free and they can demand as much of it as they like as per government campaigns.

    Today alone I visited (or tired to) a person who didn't answer the door because she was asleep and another who was so unwell he was sipping cup of tea in sheltered accommodation cafeteria. This on a day I have a cold with temp of 38C makes me question - who is really unwell here and why is my service abused?

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  • we have to start popping in from now on for this admissions avoidance DES LARK to do care plans etc
    so learn to live with it Copperfield and do what Cameron tells you- he knows best

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  • These pressures are a result of 'GP led' reforms, surely? Why would a GP complain about something of their own making? Would you like someone less responsible to pop in and listen to your opinion?

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  • Perhaps popping in should become a DES too?

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  • Stop moaning For me life began at sixty the day I retired! What a mess !

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  • As ever, well written, very entertaining and very true ! Thanks Copperfield :-)

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  • It is this constant 'nit picking' that gives GP's a bad name!
    Please deal with your own patients and don't assume all patients are so demanding. Many patients are very well aware of the appalling way GP's are being battered in every direction and they do appreciate the high demands made on their GP's.

    The world is not perfect and sadly everyone is not perfect, but please don't label us as all being the same!

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  • Yeah, but are you missing £30k of flu claims cos your CQRS person has not used the last date of each month as the achievement date and the claims sit languishing on the system until it dawns on your PM that you have no flu money?...................... Just sayin'

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  • Dear Shurleea
    I expect Copperfield is one of the really excellent GPs we have in our area. I suspect this is his alter ego letting off steam so that he can get on with his job. Is his post ironic, do you think?
    BTW, are you a GP?

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From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder