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A bombardment of banalities

Copperfield has ‘FW:Urgent! High Priority! Red Flagged! Act Now! Mail' fatigue.

A few weeks into last year's swine flu scare I confessed that I hadn't bothered to read the first dozen or so missives from the Department of Health regarding the Health Protection Agency's case/suspected case management algorithms.

In fact I think they were up to their seventh updates (‘P7' and ‘S7' if memory serves me correctly) before I actually encountered a patient whose presentation roused any piggy bug concerns.

The other thing I did, which I now regret bitterly, was to open the fifth such e-mail, type the word ‘UNSUBSCRIBE' and go on to hit the ‘reply all' button.

OK, not a bad gag you might think, and though I say so myself it went down well in the locality as being an electronically eloquent way of displaying my ennui about the whole thing. So no regrets there. Where things went wrong was that in replying to all I inadvertently added my own e-mail address to the PCT's master list of addressees.

And it's been hell. Now that they don't have mild fevers and sniffles to panic about they've taken to labelling each and every nugget of spam they foist on my inbox either ‘urgent' or ‘high priority' - or in (not very) extreme situations, both.

Three days ago it was, 'FW: PLEASE READ - IMPORTANT INFORMATION' – with accompanying red flag in the margin, addressed to forty eight individual practices and cascaded to a further seventeen medics by our practice manager.

Assuming we're average that's over eight hundred PCs going ‘beep' and popping up that ‘you've got mail' logo thing.

Read on....

‘The MHRA has received reports of revisions of MoM hip replacements involving soft tissue reactions. These reactions may be associated with unexplained hip pain.'

Important? Maybe. Relevant to general practice? Possibly. Urgent? No bleeding way.

Better yet, the text was preceded by...‘for information only (no action required)'

Today's best offering ( one of many, I assure you ) is...‘FW: MDA/2010/030: Blood Glucose Meters.'

OK... diabetes, we all handle that stuff. It's bound to be relevant and useful.

‘Affected devices may show falsely high readings'

Right – nobody wants to miss such an easily treatable condition as hypoglycaemia – let's have the manufacturer's details, model numbers, serial numbers yada yada

Oh, hang on a mo...

‘falsely high readings when testing samples from neonates...'

Ah.... checking the MHRA's list of intended recipients we find paediatricians, SCBU staff, obstetricians, ambulance staff – in fact anyone and everyone who might conceivably find themselves faced by a pale jittery newborn kid in the near future.

Fine for them, and I'm sure very welcome but for little old me it's simply spam, spam, spam, spam....the MRHA made no mention of GPs – the PCT chose to forward this to me and to the health visitors.

I needn't recount the tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but I'm rapidly developing ‘FW:Urgent! High Priority! Red Flagged! Act Now! Mail' fatigue.

I'm not going to do anything rash like change my e-mail address- I've got a ‘blocked senders' list and I know how to use it – but as it's a holiday weekend coming up I'm going to get into the national bank holiday mindset.

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, ‘Something's got to be done doctor!'

You may have ideas of your own – me? I'm going to set up a one man PCT bombardment of banalities that will make a teenager's Twitter tweets read like the poetry of W.H. Auden.

The PCT might have my e-mail address, but I've got theirs – lots of them. If the acne ridden can think of a dozen moronic tweets a day then I should have no problem coming up with twice as many. I've got a grudge to harbour.

I think I'll start around 11am tomorrow with a mailshot to all PCT staff – Subject: Nutrition choices. ‘Urgent! High Priority!'

‘Tony isn't sure whether to go for the plain or choccie Hob Nob. (For information only - no action required).'

The message sender has requested a response to indicate that you have read this message. Would you like to send a receipt?

Copperfield has ‘FW:Urgent! High Priority! Red Flagged! Act Now! Mail' fatigue.