While clearly horrible and distressing, the abusive graffiti – ‘Doctors here don’t give a shit’ – sprayed on a surgery wall is something we should keep an open mind about. After all, we know that things aren’t always what they seem: in the same way that a shadow on a CXR may turn out not to be a malignancy, the defacing of a perfectly nice wall may not have malign intent, or at least may have mitigating circumstances.
So we should look beyond the message. For example:
- Just as ‘Clap for the NHS’ was an awkward over-reaction, fuelled by hope and gorgeous weather, perhaps this, in the context of gloomy Covid news, dark evenings and drizzle, is simply the pendulum swinging the other way – the autumnal yang to the spring ying. In which case, we’ll all be nervously checking our surgery walls at eight o’clock every Thursday evening.
- The ongoing suspension of the Friends and Family Test has blocked a significant conduit of feedback. So how else are the disaffected and disenfranchised expected to provide constructive criticism, other than via a spray-can and a convenient wall?
- Perhaps we should realign our view of what patients actually think of us – something I did years ago when I asked a serially disgruntled punter why she still came to see me and she said, ‘Because you’re a bit less shit than the rest’. So, personally, I’d append to the graffiti, ‘…but some give slightly more of a shit than others’.
- Whisper it quietly, but is it possible that this wasn’t written by unhappy patients at all? Study the picture closely. The giveaways are that the spelling is impeccable and there is no tell-tale unnecessary apostrophe in ‘doctors’. Could it be some kind of reverse psychology ploy? After all, as a mission statement to reduce workload, it’s very effective. And if you think that’s far-fetched, I’d point out that, when ‘F**k you nobhead’ was sprayed on our surgery door, there were as many staff believed I had done it to vent my anger to patients as believed the opposite.
Of course, I don’t want to make light of a serious matter. But you have to laugh, etc. Besides, like all apparently unjust feedback, it may contain a grain of truth for us all. It’s possible that we’ve vastly underestimated the therapeutic benefit of F2F and that the new era of remote consulting has left even the most undemanding patients feeling short-changed – and their opposite polarity positively venomous.
Patients will have to get used to our new way of working. And we may have to get used to the brickbats while they do. Because it’s pretty clear that the writing’s on the wall for the GP consultation.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield