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Patients as friends

Copperfield struggles with the implications of the latest absurdity spoken by a Government minister.

Look, I've tried hard not to rise to this one. The story broke on the 20th Sept and I'm writing this a week later, so by my reckoning, I've counted to 604,800 rather than the statutory ten. But it's no good. If I don't blog, I'll blow up.

It's this story about the science minister David Willetts telling the British Science Festival in Birmingham that we GPs will be ‘able' to prescribe ‘things like homeopathy' if there's ‘very strong patient demand'

It's excellent to know that, even in these times of severe financial constraint, GPs holding the purse strings, yada yada yada, we are still given the green light to bow to ridiculous consumer whimsy. Because I'd been really worried about that.

After all, as Mr Willetts apparently pointed out, we GPs are the patient's friend. Now that's a bit weird. Because, up until now, I've never invited my patients round for a cup of coffee or rung one up for a game of tennis. And, conversely, I don't refuse to visit my friends when they ask me to pop round to see them on account of them being fit enough to see me, and nor do I buzz for a new one after we've been chatting for 10 minutes. I think I see where I'm going wrong.

But if patients really are my friends then I should be able to be honest with them, shouldn't I? Like I was with that friend of mine who had halitosis but who I've subsequently lost contact with? So I could say to them that, if they don't believe me that homeopathy is nonsense, why don't we go and see what the fairies at the bottom of their garden think?

Perhaps I'm doing Mr Willets a disservice. He did, after all, only say we could prescribe ‘things like' homeopathy. So that could be… nothing, then. On the other hand, now he's pointed out who my friends should be, I think I recognise the enemy, too.

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

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