‘I’m glad you phoned’. Coming from a relative or friend, that’s fine. Coming from a patient – especially a patient you’re inviting for their Covid jab – it’s chilling. As chilling as ‘while I’m here’; ‘this won’t take long’; ‘I don’t come very often so I’ve brought a list’; and all the other soul-destroying phrases we endured when we used to see patients. Remember that?
This phrase is a brand new weapon that patients have discovered. It’s a remote Kalashnikov. And it came to the fore during our latest downward spiral from call handler to cold caller, as we cancelled hundreds of second jab appointments and booked thousands of first dose ones.
It’s not all bad, of course. The excitement and enthusiasm generated by inviting an elderly couple for their vaccination reminds me of the old thrill in our house whenever we heard the chimes of the ice cream van.
And it has its surreal moments. Such as the interaction recently in which an elderly lady politely asked if I’d mind also inviting her equally elderly friend for a similarly timed appointment because, you see, she’s not had her jab yet and she’s got a car, and this reminds her that the lovely couple down the road mentioned that they’d missed the call from the health centre, so could I contact them, too? I did, of course, which is when I realised that I am now not even a cold caller, I’m a Saga rep.
Which is quite funny and sweet. But then it’s all ruined by those other calls. Those where you sort the booking and think: ‘Job done’, only for them to pull the rug from under your feet with: ‘I’m glad you phoned’. This is always followed by: ‘Because I’ve been meaning to give you a call’ or ‘I can never get through’. Which, in turn, leads to a litany of nonsense they would never really have bothered making an appointment for – it’s just that the unexpected opportunity my remote presence gives them is irresistible, especially when they’re bored out of their brains.
Sod that. It’s exploitation of what is already slave labour. Here I am trying to save their lives and they’re treating me like I’m willingly providing some kind of proactive trivia triage. I will not give an opinion on your funny nail. I refuse to reconcile your repeat quantities. Thank you, no, I shan’t listen to your creaky knee over the frigging phone. My ‘regulars’ are, of course, the worst offenders – ‘Oooh – it’s YOU!’ – and that’s why I now make a point of delegating their Covid jab invite calls to someone else.
‘I’m glad you phoned.’ Well, I’m not.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield