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See how the buck passes when patients wear glasses

Copperfield hates being asked to rubber-stamp referrals, and ophthalmology is always the worst offender

There's no helping some people. Junior Registrar popped his tousled head round the door earlier today, waving one of those carbonless copy thingies that opticians give to their clients when they can't figure out how else to get them out of the room.

I wouldn't normally bother to include a reference here, but can't resist it as the author's name is 'Lash'1. (Eyes. Lash. Did you see what I did there?)

Anyway. A perfect opportunity to pass on some wisdom to the young folks.

'Do I need to write a referral letter, and if I do, what should I include?'

Apparently, Mrs Brow suffers from recurrent corneal abrasions. Nothing that a bit of lid hygiene, some antibiotic eye drops and a sense of humour couldn't handle but Mr Optician had told Mrs Brow to expect a hospital appointment and Junior Reg didn't feel up to disappointing her, bless him.

'OK, this is what you do, you ask the secretary to pull up Copperfield's All Purpose One Stop Thirty Second Ophthalmology Referral Letter from her computer...'

'Sir, I haven't the faintest idea what this barely legible assortment of hieroglyphics, dot to dot puzzles and betting odds implies but can just make out the word [insert word that looks most like a diagnosis here]. I feel confident that you will send [insert name of patient here] an appropriately timed appointment to be assessed in your clinic. Yours etc.'

Job done.

Forty minutes later Junior is back in my room with a draft that runs to two pages of A4, including the minutiae of the patient's medical, social and family histories.

And my point is? GPs have better things to do with our time than rubber-stamp referrals from one clinic to another, and ophthalmology is by far and away the worst offender. I don't get letters from my patients' dentists telling me that they've referred them on for a second opinion at the dental hospital – why should eyes and teeth be treated so differently?

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

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