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A cure for all your ills

The usual spate of runny noses has made Copperfield realise what Darzi centres are for

The arrival of winter here is heralded not so much by the first snow fall but the first barrage of ‘my febrile rug rat' phone calls.

I counted 60-odd of them the other morning before I decided that I'd better get around to answering some.

And, no, I don't know why people feel the sudden need to tell me that Danyl or Kandy or Kyle is burning up and has a badly blocked nose. It's almost as though The Sun has run a ‘Cure for common cold' story, with Tonisha (19, 36C) bemoaning postcode prescribing and pondering why the miracle medicine was only available to NHS patients in this particular corner of Essex.

Still, just as long as the Daily Mail holds off from splashing ‘Calpol causes cancer' across its front page, most parents will be just about amenable to reason, or rather to the standard paracetamol, fluids, ‘second and third days are usually the worst and don't waste your money on cough medicines' routine.

Fifty-odd ‘my kid's been sick/burning up/got a rash/got the runs' calls later, I was settling into a groove – even if that groove was rather more stuck record than dancefloor sensation. But you know how it is, just when you think things are winding down toward lunch you get the wind-up merchant. I was only a few fleeting minutes from Tesco and a well deserved all-day breakfast sandwich when… ‘Whaddya mean you ain't got no appointments left? My kid's been well sick and I want a doctor to look at it. I'm bringing her round to the surgery in half an hour and someone had better be there to check her out proper.'

Whoopee. Sick. I wonder just how much sick I've actually seen over the years. I've seen pavement pizzas, frank haematemeses, bile-stained vomitus – the whole gamut. My knowledge of barf, puke, upchuck and chunder verges on the encyclopedic. I seriously doubt that exposure to another spew-covered babygro is going to add much to my life experience. Unless the spew is blue, in which case it's definitely going to get mentioned at my appraisal.

‘Hang on, I can understand that you're very concerned. Did you know that the NHS has just opened a walk-in centre next door to Tesco? We may have let you down this morning, but they'll be happy to see you anytime up till 8pm. If the longer opening hours would be more convenient I'm sure they would accept you and your family as permanent patients.'

Think of it this way. I'd never dump heartsinks onto another local practice, if only to respect the quid pro quo. But 3% of our patients cause 17% of our work (or in this case, grief). The lesson? Dump the right 3% onto the wage slaves, decimate the workload, let the senior partner go. We're quids in and even the patients are happy.

It's about time we stopped viewing Darzi centres and the like as the enemy. From now on, they're the cavalry riding over the horizon to take on every heartsinking, pain-in-the-arse, Entitled Demander and Help Rejector that I can divert their way. Don't ya just love ‘em?

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

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