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How the spirit of Christmas Yet To Be convinced Dr Ebeneezer Scrooge to hire a salaried GP

Once upon a time, on Christmas Eve, old

Dr Scrooge sat checking his PCT statements. The door to his consulting room was ajar, the better to ensure his receptionist did not sneak an extra cup of water. Through the crack, he espied his nephew, Fred.

'A Merry Christmas, Uncle!' cried Fred.

'Bah! Humbug!' said Scrooge. 'What's there to be merry about? Christmas just means fewer opportunities to earn Q&O points.'

'But Uncle, Christmas is a time to hand over to the out-of-hours service and watch Eastenders. Won't you be popping round for a swift half?'

'No,' snapped Scrooge. 'I'm comparing medical catalogue prices tomorrow. And if you've come round to nag me about that PMS salaried post you want, the answer's No. Good day.'

The day wore on. Scrooge locked the surgery and walked to his lodgings, which he had purchased from his late partner,

Dr Marley.

As Scrooge put his key in the lock, he saw not a knocker on the door, but Marley's face. His hand went to his brow. 'God,

I must ease up on the Prozac.'

After a frugal meal of Cup-A-Soup and half a Curly Wurly he retired. Scarcely an hour had passed when the curtains of his bed drew back and there appeared a man dressed in civil servant's garb. Scrooge had seen pictures of Nye Bevan, and it was he.

'I am the Spirit of Christmas Past,' said the apparition. 'There

is something you must see.'

He found himself in a field, where a wretch with coal-black hands and weary eyes was labouring over a patient. 'This is a coal board doctor. He spends his waking hours taking smears from miner's wives.'

'Hasn't he got any help?' asked Scrooge, but he was already back in his bed. A light shone from the living room. He tentatively opened the door. It was John Hutton, in all his splendour. Sitting by him were two men, imbibing champagne.

'I am the Spirit of Christmas Present. This is Dr Patel and his PMS salaried doctor. They are celebrating the fact that they have just achieved 1,050 Q&O points.'

The scene changed again and Scrooge found himself by a grave. He recognised the Grim Reaper standing by. 'I am the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Be,' it said.

Inscribed on the grave were the words: 'Dr Ebeneezer Scrooge: Died in penury for lack of a salaried doctor.'

Suddenly it was daylight. Scrooge dressed rapidly, ran to Asda and bought a frozen turkey, a cob loaf, and a golden fob watch.

He hurried to Fred's and through the window spotted his nephew carrying Tiny Tim, who suffered from attention deficit disorder, around the room. Scrooge burst in. 'I've come to give you a cob, a fob....and a job.'

'God bless us,' laughed Tim, throwing the turkey through the 48-inch plasma TV screen. 'God bless us, every one!'

Dr Laurence Knott is a GP in Enfield

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