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The heavy burden of insight

Swine flu guidance is updated on an almost daily basis, which means reading it is a waste of time as it'll be out of date almost by the time you've finished, argues Copperfield.

Swine flu guidance is updated on an almost daily basis, which means reading it is a waste of time as it'll be out of date almost by the time you've finished, argues Copperfield.

I'm glad it's not only the NHS that can screw up a proverbial two car funeral. The local education and skills department are driving at least one of my patients to drink, depression and thoughts of self-harm.

"It's like this, Doc. I teach a course in Accounting and Payroll Computing." Well, no wonder he's stressed. Sorry. Inappropriate piss take. I'm sure it's a demanding and worthwhile career.

"They've only asked me to teach the course in January." He paused for dramatic effect. I stopped counting the stains on the consulting room floor.

"Sorry to appear thick but, so what?" "The students won't sit their exams until June." "Ah, now I get it. Actually, I don't. What's the problem?"

"April 5th 2010, that's the problem. The stuff I teach them in January will be obsolete by the time they get their hands on their MCQ papers and HB pencils. It'll be three months into the new tax year and everything will have changed."

Ah, the heavy burden of insight. He's realised that there is no point in studying anything that will be out of date before the chance comes along to use it. Which is one reason, the other being my lifelong devotion to sloth, why I have failed to open any of the plethora of e-mails sent to me about my role in the upcoming influenza pandemic.

On the last eight working days at least one "Swine Flu – Update" or "Medical Alert" has popped up in my in-box, marked as "HIGH" priority.

Reliable sources ( the trainees ) tell me that each of them has been subtly different from the one before. Which, if you think it through, means that any time they spent reading the previous seven was totally wasted.

Not only have I studiously ignored this mountain of cyber-shite I have wilfully failed to read, mark, learn or inwardly digest any of the .pdf formatted collateral spam that has arrived on its coat tails. The day that I display the slightest interest in the local Community Health Service's take on the global crisis is the day you can take away my prescription pad and put me out to grass.

And although the local head of GP Support & Delivery has been kind enough to send me her views on Sir Liam Donaldson's latest missive ( It's a ‘must read', apparently ) I'm about as likely to bother with them as I am to listen in awe as she outlines exactly where she felt Wenger got it wrong vis-a-vis his tactics in the Champions' League semi-final.

One day someday, maybe never, a bloke will pitch up in the surgery with mild flu-like symptoms because his best mate has just got off the plane from Cancun suffering from, er, mild flu-like symptoms. Then, and only then, will I login and eyeball the most recent versions of the Health Protection Agency algorithms, "P5" & "S5", also known as "What to do when the pig shit hits the fan".

Unless, of course, they've been usurped by "P6" & "S6" by then.

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