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Phil fumes over patients with terrible verbal tics – but then remembers he's been there...

Phil fumes over patients with terrible verbal tics – but then remembers he's been there...

Here he comes again. My next punter is Sort O'Style Man: perhaps my most profoundly irritating patient – and that's saying something, given the competition.

He's not a bad man. He's not immoral, he's not a 'frequent flier', he's not even a heartsink in the true sense of the phrase. Sort O'Style Man turns up at the surgery about once a month.

His presenting complaints are not all that unreasonable, and if he were anyone else I would have no complaint about him. But he isn't anyone else and I am coming to the conclusion that I need a showdown with Sort O'Style Man. This town ain't big enough for the both of us. And it ain't me who's going to leave.

He has the most incredible verbal tic – he ends nearly every sentence with the phrase 'sort o'style'.

'Hello doctor,' he will say. 'I've got this cough back again, sort o'style. I've been coughing so hard I've put my back out again, sort o'style.'

It's a shame he has latched on to me; I honestly don't think I am the best physician for him. Because after two sentences of his presenting complaint I have lost track. If he were to tell me he was losing weight and coughing up blood, sort o'style, the nuances of his illness would completely pass me by, because all my mental faculties would be engaged in wondering just what the hell 'sort o'style' is supposed to convey.

I once asked him, wonderingly, if he was married. 'Oh yes, I've been married, sort o'style, nearly 40 years.' I refrained from asking him why his wife hadn't clubbed him to death in his sleep with a frying pan long since. Experience has taught me other people's relationships are generally unfathomable and best left undisturbed.

By chance, in the same surgery, I have another encounter with Eggsetterer Man. Another chap with a deeply irritating verbal habit, he can't be bothered with adjectives or descriptions, and will tell me things like: 'The back pain is back again, eggsetterer eggsetterer.'

Saves time, I suppose. He assumes I know what he means when he says: 'It's that tingling feeling, eggsetterer eggsetterer.'

Well I don't know what he means, and the only thing that stops me from smiting him in the mazzard is the embarrassing knowledge that I used to be Right? Man.

I'm a big fan of videoed consultations. I had to make a video as part of my MRCGP exam and if I hadn't, I might never have realised I was Right? Man. Reviewing the tape, I was shocked to see something I had never previously realised: I said 'right?' every four or five words. 'I think you've got a virus, right? I'm going to give you these tablets, right?' It went on and on, consultation after consultation. Why my patients didn't smite me in the mazzard, I have no idea.

As a result of that video I have been able to cure myself of being Right? Man. As another result of that video, I think everyone should be videoed in conversation every now and again, and be forced to watch it. It would be a public service. It would add to the sum of human happiness, sort o'style.

pulse@cmpmedica.com

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland and MJA Columnist of the Year

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