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The irritation after the clap

Well, that didn’t last long, did it? I’m trying to recall when work felt marginally less relentlessly crappy than it does at the moment, and I’m transported back to those surreal first few weeks of coronavirus. And it makes me think that the Thursday night ritualistic handclapping and pot-banging for the NHS – remember that? – is starting to sound, in retrospect, a tad hollow.

Because the patients are restless. In fact, they’re back to their usual demanding, complaining, impatient, pre-Covid selves. But worse. Clearly, the honeymoon period of low maintenance was just that, and is degenerating rapidly into an ugly divorce. Hence recurring calls with self righteous anger directed at hospitals, reception and GPs for, respectively, delayed outpatient slots, difficulties getting appointments and a lack of face-to-face contact.

From my perspective, this latter gripe is the most frequent and telling. There’s a real sense of entitlement and grievance because of the credit patients assumed they’d accumulated during lockdown, leading to a repeated new mantra of, ‘…and nobody’s even examined me.’

The honeymoon period of low maintenance was just that

It’s all very understandable, of course – but nonetheless disappointing, and it adds to the sense of foreboding we’re all feeling as autumn and winter approach.

So that clap was nice while it lasted. Except it wasn’t, really, was it? We could see it for what it was (a communal release with a sense of ritualistic offering to the health gods as some kind of sickness insurance) and could see what was to follow (this).

That said, I haven’t actually walked the neighbourhood at 8pm on a Thursday to see what they’re actually doing nowadays. For all I know, they may still be making some gesture towards the NHS. If so, it’s probably a V-sign.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at