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Phil Peverley: Note of disappointment

GANFYD. The acronym, which stands for 'get a note from your doctor', strikes dismay into the heart of the GP. I would call it the scourge of modern general practice, if there weren't so many other things that are also the scourge of modern general practice.

GANFYD. The acronym, which stands for 'get a note from your doctor', strikes dismay into the heart of the GP. I would call it the scourge of modern general practice, if there weren't so many other things that are also the scourge of modern general practice.

The range of reasons for which people are asked to get a note from their doctor grows ever greater and dafter, and the trend is proving, on talking to my colleagues, to be one of the most frustrating, time-wasting, irritating and infuriating aspects of a job that is already frustrating, irritating and infuriating.

The kneejerk reaction of a frightened nanny society, desperate to dump the responsibility on to someone else. Can the patient go swimming, can they go on holiday, can they drive a car, can they lift a box? Can employers treat them like adults? Nah.

'Sorry to bother you doctor, but I need a note.' 'Laaaa!' I sing, but it doesn't throw him off his stride. 'Not that sort of note. I need a note to say that I'm alive.'

And he does, unbelievably enough. My patient is one of my favourites, one of my few remaining World War II veterans, and I'm always pleased to see him. But maybe not so much this time. He's had a letter from the War Office, and they want him to obtain a 'certificate of existence' from his GP, on the grounds that if he's dead he can't have his pension any more.

I should charge him for it. Deciding whether someone is alive or dead is a big decision that has major repercussions, and the expertise involved does not come cheap. But how much? Fifty quid?

On the other hand, he needs the certificate so that he can continue to receive £13 a week. Do I charge him a month's worth of this tiny pension, which he has really, really earned? Two ships sank under him in the Atlantic. He's got two fingers missing, and the torpedo blew his eardrums out.

I find a bit of paper and scribble 'This man tells me he is alive. I see no reason to doubt his word,' and hand it over. 'Great. How much do I owe you, doctor?' Given how much I, and all of us, owe him, there is only one answer.

By chance, the next patient is a GANFYD too. A shining-eyed youngster prances in, her parents beaming in the background. 'She's got an audition for Byker Grove next week. She has to have a letter to say she's fit to be on the telly.

'Why do these children need medical permission to have a camera pointed at them? What could possibly go wrong? I suppose a lighting rig might fall on one of the little spuds one day, and the BBC wants to make sure that is our responsibility.

I decide to go all biblical. 'I say unto you, take this child and put her four-square in the Grove that is Byker, and I vouchsafe to you that nothing ill shall befall her, saving maybe some flying custard or spit balls. This is the word of the Doc. But remember, most gravely, that I might be talking camel poo, as I have not the second sight of the Sybill.

'That'll be ten quid, Mrs Antandeck. Fifteen if Shirley Temple doesn't get her twinkletoes out of here in 15 seconds. Break a leg!'

I wonder if they thought I meant 'Good luck'?

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