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The things that needle me

The things that needle me

‘I don’t like needles’.

I’m sure if every GP got a pound for every time we’d heard that, we could cover the increase in our employer’s NI contribution.

I always think this a strange remark though. Why would you think that disliking a sharpened piece of steel being jammed into a sensitive muscle makes you different to anybody else? Do these patients think the rest of us relish the prospect of pain?

Similarly, the well hackneyed phrase: ‘I don’t like taking tablets’ and ‘I don’t want any tablets with side effects’ (you and the rest of humanity) raises my hackles quicker than a statement on the future of general practice from the health secretary.

Going to see a GP and stating that you don’t like oral medication is a bit like taking your car in for a service and informing the mechanic that you don’t want them using spanners on it – it’s sort of what we do.

I would say, though, that it’s mostly younger patients who are the wimps – as revealed by the Covid vaccination clinics. It was the 20-something-year-olds who went into hysterics at the site of a needle. The boomers and wartime generation took their jab without a blink.

Part of me is desperate to say: ‘You think a tiny vaccine needle and some pills are difficult, try a bone marrow biopsy and six months of chemotherapy’, but of course I don’t.  Like most GPs, I’m sure, I sympathise and try to reassure while gritting my teeth.

A friend of mine training in anaesthetics once told me his boss had said to him that no patient should ever feel any pain. He challenged this view by asking that if nobody ever experiences any physical pain, how are they ever going to cope with mental pain?

I’m not advocating stopping all our patients’ analgesia to ‘toughen them up’, but I do think that we need to be realistic about some of the discomforts medical procedures can cause, and the side effects of some of the prescribed drugs that we dish out.

There seems to be a creeping idea in society that nobody should ever have to experience anything unpleasant in their life and that being ‘happy’ all the time should be the default for most. Whether that happiness is achieved by spending more on material things they don’t need or sugary treats doesn’t seem to matter – as long as we’re all aiming for the Nirvanic ideal of happiness.

Ironically, though, it always seems to be inside the houses with the most signs saying things like ‘Be happy’ and ‘Happiness starts at home’ where this state of eternal blissfulness is least likely to be found.

Thinking about it, using this reverse psychology, perhaps we should all have signs above our surgery reception desks saying ‘Be miserable’.

Dr David Turner is a GP in Hertfordshire



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Just My Opinion 16 August, 2022 11:26 am


Christopher Ho 17 August, 2022 9:44 am

Lol Dr Turner finally meets the millenial snowflakes, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the “easily offended”.

Patrufini Duffy 17 August, 2022 2:25 pm

Can I drink on those antibiotics?

I’d like the pill with the least hormones and best for my skin. They make me go crazy you know. Emily said I’ve got ADHD or bipolar, but I think it’s the pills.

David Banner 17 August, 2022 8:11 pm

Or the tattoo-riddled 20something who is terrified of needles……classic