Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Phil Peverley: The wrong silent type

To err is human, but to say 'er' allthe time, as this lady is doing, is bovine

To err is human, but to say 'er' allthe time, as this lady is doing, is bovine

'Ah've come with me chest, doctah.'

I give my patient a brief external visual examination, and I can see there are no flies on her.

'Yes you have, haven't you? I see you've also come with your arms, legs, head, teeth and hair. Well done. How can I help you?'

She seems disconcerted. 'Well it's me chest, doctah.'

I pause for a longish 20 seconds, but it seems that information is all I am going to get. 'Is there anything the matter with your chest at all?'

'Yes, there is.' She seems relieved, but apparently not relieved enough to tell me what the actual problem is.This type of consultation drives me up the wall. It is as if the patient has made a tremendous effort to get into the consulting room, and once inside and sitting down, she seems to think she has done her bit. The rest is up to me.

I don't understand this. I usually run about half an hour late, so the punter has a reasonable amount of time to sit in the waiting room and think about her complaint. If it was me, I would be composing and condensing my ailment into the fewest possible words, something like: 'Hello, doctor. You're looking more than averagely handsome today. It's me chest. Dry painful cough Sunday to Tuesday, followed by productive cough, green phlegm, last three days since then.

'Pain on breathing in left side mid-axilliary line, no blood, possible temperature last two nights but no thermometer so I'm not sure. Feel like shite and want some medicine. And yes I smoke and I'm sorry and I deserve everything I get but can I have some medicine anyway.'

This I could deal with. However, this is like pulling teeth, and as I didn't train as a dentist, I resent doing it. To err is human, but to say 'er' allthe time, as this lady is doing, is bovine. I bow to the inevitable. 'Have you got a cough?' 'Oh aye, doctah,' she tells me with some satisfaction. She's on familiar ground now. 'For how long?' 'Oh, a while now, doctah.' 'And how long is that?' 'Oh I would say a canny while.'

To hell with this. A canny while can be any period of time from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the time spent in the Celebrity Big Brother House by Germaine Greer. 'How long?' I bellow.

Eventually I discover the cough started the day after Kyle's birthday party. Kyle is my patient, so I look up his birthday, which was four weeks ago, but then a worm of suspicion enters my mind. When was Kyle's birthday party? Was it the same day as his birthday?

'Oh no, doctah,' laughs my patient. 'His party was after.' 'How long after?'

By now my knuckles are white. 'A canny while, doctah.' I should have known.

There's no point trying to take this any further. 'Here you go!' I tell her brightly and fire off a script. 'I'll give you some medicine. F**k off.'For the first time she is jerked out of her complacency.

'What did you say?'

'I said here's some medicine. For cough! Come back if it doesn't help.' 'When should I come back?' I savour my response. 'In a canny while. Bye bye now.'

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say