This site is intended for health professionals only

Free at the point of abuse

Well, thank heavens that’s all over. It wasn’t too bad, was it?

Thanks to our prompt, decisive and above all unanimous and co-ordinated industrial action, the Government has rolled over like the pussies we always knew they were and restored our promised pension agreements, just like we knew they would.

The worst thing we could have done would have been to present a disunited front, put up a few token Uncle Toms for the popular press – who would parrot the idea that we do this job out of liberal guilt and not for any sort of living wage – and then, despite displaying a shamefully small percentage of participating doctors, back out of this even further on the day and offer to the public, as some sort of desperate half-assed child’s attempt at a strike, two doctors in Penge who flatly refuse to remove ingrowing toenails until tomorrow.

Lucky that we didn’t do that, eh?

Or maybe you don’t care that our employment contract was theoretically in some way binding on both parties. It appears now that it wasn’t, certainly.

If our Government can unilaterally piss my pension and retirement age away into the ether, then presumably I can also tear up the same contract and, say, refuse to treat any ailment from mid-thigh downwards. Nobody would die as a result. Let’s see just how far I get with that idea, shall we?

However, this was never going to be an easy gig, frankly, and I can hardly hold my own practice up as a beacon of excellence when it comes to Citizen Smith-style, bandana-wearing, fist-waving popular protest.

I’m the only one who insisted on taking any industrial action at all.

I refused to see anything but emergencies on the day, but as my partners insisted on working as normal, and as it is our patients who define the word ‘emergency’, then all that happened is that I saw all the ‘urgent extras’ that would have otherwise been (and are, on any other day) distributed among the lot of us.

And what an utterly depressing day of unrelenting crap it was.

Nobody likes to contemplate their own insignificance, or indeed have the bald fact of it thrust in their faces, but for heaven’s sake, are we not here to deal with more important stuff than this?

This is urgent? For this, we cost the nation £25 per appointment? (And I’m well aware that this is a bargain compared with anyone else.)

I had intended to use this article to demonstrate the pathetic nature of most urgent requests to see a GP, and I kept a list of the utter rubbish that I saw on the day of action – the lost sick notes, the prescription queries, the requests for advice about a parent who isn’t actually a patient of yours, it goes on and on.

But what’s the point? You’ve heard it all before. You all get it, every single day.

This profession deeply depresses me at times, and it always comes back to the fact that our services are free at the point of use (or abuse, if you will).

Some 90% of my time, or rather 100% on the day of supposed industrial action, is taken up by about 5% of our patients, and there is no evidence to suggest that they are the 5% that need it most.

Sometimes I can barely tolerate what I do for a living, and I’m in one of those periods now. During these times there seems only one realistic solution: charge them.

The type of patient who makes another appointment on the way out of the last one, on the grounds that they are bound to think of something else to moan about before then has to be… well, I was going to say discouraged, but I am actually tempted to say they should be socked on the back of the head with a baseball bat.

The patients we are actually here for cannot get easily accessible appointments because of the tedious minority who spend far too much of our time indulging their hobby of free, self-indulgent self-aggrandisement.

I honestly believe that the time for free access to medical care is over; ruined by the selfish few.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland