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In defence of maggots

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I don’t think our practice manager slept in a week. As the days went by, we could see her rushing around with clipboards and files, getting greyer and more manic by the minute. Just before she hit the gibbering stage, the fateful day arrived.

The day the CQC came to town.

An hour before they arrived, we sat down with our final checklist. ‘All visible maggots removed from the treatment room?’ ‘Yep.’ ‘That wasps’ nest in the waiting room?’ ‘Got rid of it yesterday.’ ‘Those molluscs on the radiators?’ ‘Ah. Gimme five minutes.’

As gleefully announced in every conceivable form of media last month, the CQC found some sort of insect larvae at one unfortunate practice during its initial round of inspections. According to the practice itself, said larvae were not, as reported, in a treatment room, but in a hallway next to a door to a public alley at the back. I’m not defending the fact that they were there – we could all do without them, frankly. But as always, the truth is less clear-cut than you might imagine.

Of course, if you want to see invertebrates in clinical areas, you only have to pick your time carefully. I can think of three incidents at our place that might have raised a CQC eyebrow.

As an elderly lady gingerly raised herself from my examination couch the other week, I saw with mild horror that several dozen prime examples of pediculus humanus capitis had migrated from her beehive hairdo. Rendered temporarily speechless, I didn’t mention it, but after she left I broke the practice speed record in rushing for the dustbuster.

A homeless gentleman, who called in at random for a bit of treatment-room charity, spilled an unlikely number of unidentifiable fly larvae on the floor after the district nurses had taken down the appalling and ancient dressing on his diabetic ulcer.

And some time ago, I examined a young lad for mysterious abdominal pain. Afterwards, as I was refreshing the roll of paper on the examination couch, a number of little white wriggly things where his bum had been gave me a sudden retrospective diagnosis.

You’d like to think your house is free from creepy-crawlies, but you’d be kidding yourself. Apparently there are about 160,000 insects and arachnids in your average home, if you know where to look. And that’s just the macroscopic ones.

My house is quite old and we share it with lots of spiders, including Boris, who is about the size of a computer mouse and occasionally runs across the living room during Breaking Bad. Luckily none of my family are neurotic, so we share our living space with him quite happily. Clearly these spiders are not raiding the fridge at night, so they must be eating lots of other invertebrates that would be a bigger pain in the arse if left unchecked.

And recently we found a Devil’s coach-horse beetle sauntering around our practice like it owned the place. This is a carnivorous rove beetle that only eats other insects. After admiring him for a bit, we put him back down on the carpet and let him get on with his unpaid job. After all, he’s one of the few employees who is not on a final salary pension.

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