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What do Holby City and Doc Martin have in common?



Copperfield speculates the impact of washed-up TV hospital doctors turning general practitioner.

Question. What do the BBC’s Holby City and ITV’s Doc Martin have in common?

Correct, they’re both crap, but there’s more.

The whole premise of Doc Martin was that a consultant surgeon could develop a significant psychiatric condition, walk off the ward and set up in practice in the middle of nowhere (Cornwall) as a GP. 13 million people watched the last episode, convinced that it was possible to wield a scalpel one day and a prescription pad the next, should the mood take you.

Don’t underestimate the power of the media – I spent most of my early life convinced that an Englishman had taken his plane beyond Mach One and survived the ordeal by pushing the joystick forward to climb and pulling it backwards to dive, just like it said in David Lean’s film, ‘The Sound Barrier’.

Six years on it seems that it’s OK for the BBC’s Casualty spin-off, Holby City to nick the plot line and have one of their surgeons (don’t ask me who, I’ve really no interest) jack in his theatre greens and head off to the middle of nowhere (Penrith) to set up in practice as a GP and implant the idea that it’s possible to buy a brass plate, bung it on the door and set up in practice, into the heads of another six million couch potatoes.

Something’s got to be done, Doc. The producers of Doc Martin now include a reference to an unseen period of ‘retraining’ between theatre and consulting room – though I can’t recall seeing any reference to it in the show itself when I reviewed the first two episodes. But it’s right there in the show’s Wikipedia entry and, hey, Wikipedia’s never wrong.

Complaining that Holby City is medically inaccurate is, in the immortal words of Guardian TV critic Charlie Brooker, like complaining that Monster Munch doesn’t taste of real monsters, so I don’t fancy our chances of seeing a disclaimer along the lines of ‘this could not happen….’ in the credits any time soon.

But the sad fact of the matter is that we probably bring all of this onto ourselves. How many times have you overheard one of your colleagues at a meeting or a social event describe themselves as ‘only a GP’?

Being a GP is probably the easiest job in medicine to do badly and the hardest to do well. Putting ourselves down in public and belittling the time we spent training, the time we spend keeping up to date and the experience we gather along the way is doing us no good at all and makes it easy for lazy television scriptwriters to set us all up as ‘failed hospital doctors’ – a stereotype that could and should have died out with the last series of Doctor at Large or the last medical Carry On… movie.

So, and I know I’ve suggested this before, the next time you hear the words ‘Only a GP…’ go over and give the speaker a severe kick up the jacksie. If you happen to have a lubricated Rude Boy or Rampant Rabbit handy (admittedly an unlikely scenario but I don’t know what sort of parties blog readers go to) use that instead. And use it well.

Either way… make sure that your victim sees the error of their ways.

‘Sick Notes’ by Dr Tony Copperfield is out now, available from Monday Books.

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