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Mandatory draining


I’m going to have to stop you right there. Without the correct documentation, you can proceed no further with this column, and I shall have to arrest you. Do you have at least English O level grade C, or equivalent? Have you completed the ‘Moving and handling a mouse (electronic, not furry)’ module, or ‘Paper cut avoidance’ if you’re reading the print edition? Have you achieved ‘Irony awareness’ level 12?

Only because you’ve completed all of the above is it reasonable for me to assume that you understand I’m going to write about that notorious vaccine volunteer checklist. You know, the one that documents the training mandated before retired medics are deemed safe to know which end of a Covid vaccine to stick into a deltoid. There are either 18 or 21 items required in total (sources: BMJ or Daily Mail, respectively, and I know which I believe).

You probably think this is ridiculous, yet this health and safety-fest does contain a grain of sense. After all, I’ve already had a daughter so furious that her elderly parents were kept waiting for half an hour in sub-zero temperatures at the local Covid vaccination centre that she threatened to burn the whole place down. So thank goodness for my fire safety and adult-safeguarding badges, and in particular my Conflict resolution level 1 training (‘I’m sorry, and I do understand, but we were so short of fridge space that we thought we’d try freezing the patients rather than the vaccine’).

This bonkeaucracy could be stopped with the slash of a politician’s pen, of course – and might well have been by the time you read this. And as it merely echoes what we regular frontline workers have to tolerate every year, then one positive legacy of Covid might be the inoculation of so-called mandatory training with some common sense at last.

In the meantime, we have to content ourselves with a delicious irony – which, as we’ve already established, you’re qualified to appreciate. And it’s this: on the one hand, we are assumed to be unfit for our day job unless we provide evidence of updates on radicalisation, diversity et al; on the other, there’s the expectation that we can take on the role of hospital consultants and public health specialists without any further training/checking whatsoever.

Thus, in the past week, I’ve been asked to manage acutes I’d normally have admitted, treat ongoing problems I’d usually have referred, consider running Covid virtual wards, risk assess a nursing home in the throes of a Covid outbreak and even attend the wards of the local hospital to see who I think might be fit for discharge.

All of which is fine, actually, up to a point. We GPs love rising to a challenge and this is, after all, medicine in wartime. But I do wish people would make their bloody minds up. Are we GPs magicians who can conjure up overnight whatever skills are required, or morons who need an annual update to remind us not to put our licked fingers in the plug socket?

If whoever makes these decisions is having trouble making up their mind, might I suggest ‘Sense of proportion’ training, level 147?

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

This piece originally appeared in the February print issue of Pulse


Jonathan Heatley 5 February, 2021 10:31 am

could not agree more, well said. Perhaps Pulse should run an annual competition for moronic mandatory madness.
Could Tony put the boot into protocols and guidelines while he is on this mission. Doing all those years of training then having guidelines shoved down our throats makes this job akin to painting by numbers..

Patrufini Duffy 5 February, 2021 2:13 pm

Fun read. We know, the astute task of clicking straight through online imbecile training, to the end questions and still hitting 90% is a RCGP Gold Award in itself, and testament that we are still not morons, but treated and brainwashed like one. Like I say, the rot starts from inside the tree – ‘they’ love these whimsical chirades. You know, the robotic rote learning, indoctrinated Roger Neighbour types.

Decorum Est 5 February, 2021 2:27 pm

‘Are we GPs magicians who can conjure up overnight whatever skills are required, or morons who need an annual update to remind us not to put our licked fingers in the plug socket?’

I think we used to be the former but have been ‘ground-down’ to being the suicidal latter.

And no Tony, you don’t need any mandatory remedial English writing courses, so you can skive right back to the local Covid vaccination centre.

Malcolm Kendrick 5 February, 2021 4:01 pm

Yes, today I proudly clutch my latest data awareness course certificate. I did make the mistake of clicking on a video at the start which showed people clutching coffee cups with all sorts of their details written on them complied by people in a van across the road with computers, and headphones, and suchlike… which I found as useful as all other mandatory training videos.

Having found myself trapped in watching this for two minutes, the only ‘active’ arrow I could then press took me back to the previous screen. I was trapped in a loop, a forward arrow, followed by a back arrow.

So, I gave up went straight to the questions – exactly that same as last year. Scored 100% without reading or watching anything else. I must be a genius. I have a renewed sense of pride in my IT knowledge. The NHS is safe in my hands once more.

David jenkins 5 February, 2021 4:46 pm

applied two months ago to be a vaccinator.

told them “i’m already a vaccinator – i’ve been vaccinating people since 1976”

could i verify my qualification ? medical degrees ok, as they can look them up – but where are my o level certificates ?

haven’t heard anything since – but i’ve nearly finished restoring my 1939 wolseley ten !

maybe there is a god after all !

terry sullivan 10 February, 2021 8:00 pm

it astounds me that MPs Ministers need no qualifications–and look at the morons we get

Roelof Edelenbos 13 February, 2021 8:05 pm

Can I just say well said , every year we have to for instance turn up for the mandatory chest thumping and doll snogging exercise, (clinell at the ready) mandatory!! It all started to go wrong when after years in gynaecology popping in iud/iucd’s I was told that I could not do this unless I had an update every 3 years. Is evolution accelerating?;I asked, This was met with a shrug of the shoulders.

Tim Lee 18 February, 2021 1:10 pm

Would be fabulous if we all, en masse, agreed to completely ignore the tedious, long winded and patronising on-line “training” exercises that are mandated by God-knows-who… and in these days of evidence based medicine, is there any evidence base that engaging with such training has affected patient outcomes in any meaningful way??