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2050 predictions: Body scanners, and patients’ permits to be ill

Dr Smith got off his electric bicycle (all doctors had been banned from driving, as they had to set an example) and walked into the treatment centre to see his first 30 patients already lined up, with their permits to be ill in their hands.

The centre controller allocated him a cubicle in which to work.

‘I’ve sorted the patients. You’re on over-70s with bellyache,’ he said. ‘They have their scan results on their microchips.’

Dr Smith sat down in his cubicle and immediately a patient appeared.

He scanned their subdermal chip. Total Body Scan clear. His tricorder confirmed that liver and kidney function were within NICE parameters and that their diet had been as ordered for them, so they were entitled to a diagnostic and treatment. Non compliance with health advice meant exclusion from medical care. Smoking was still officially legal, thanks to those moaning libertarians, and drinking more than a unit of alcohol a day warranted an automatic exclusion from state healthcare.

No time for talking. Being a bit old-fashioned, having finished GP training in 2015 he went to examine the abdomen. A disembodied voice reminded him that this was no longer allowed to avoid his being a vector of disease. He had the scan after all.

An enquiry after the patient’s family was again boomed out by the voice.

‘Enter diagnosis and disposal’ said the voice. He dictated into the screen and the patient disappeared to be replaced by the next.

He wondered what had  become of lifelong doctor patient relationships – and home visiting – when the voice again warned him that he was daydreaming and would be docked 10 credits if he did this again.

He shrugged resignedly and pressed the button to call the next patient.

Dr Peter Swinyard is the chair of the Family Doctor Association and a GP in Swindon.