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The last word on insults

The last word on insults

Copperfield insisted on the last word for our Pulse in Print series. Je ne regrette rien, he says

‘Your writing reminds me of a madman ranting from the sidelines,’ my appraiser once said to me. And I thought, ‘Great, that’s exactly what I aspire to.’ But the implication was that I really should be sitting on the naughty step, thinking about what I’d done. So I’ll do that now. And what better time than this watershed moment in Pulse’s history to look back at who, over the years, I’ve insulted. 

Patients with ME/CFS  

In retrospect it was probably a mistake to put the words ‘ME’ and ‘pond life’ in the same sentence. But it’s all about context, isn’t it? Besides, this was years ago, before medical correctness went mad. This went all the way to the GMC and taught me an important lesson. That lesson being that the GMC wheels move incredibly slowly, which is why it took them more than a year just to work out that I technically didn’t exist. But if I did, they explained, I might have been in trouble.  

Dissatisfied patients  

… with borderline B12 deficiency, low vitamin D or hypothyroidism. A well-recognised constituency of patients with vague symptoms that they tenaciously attribute to their deficiency, despite all evidence to the contrary. If I was brave, I’d add oestrogen here, but I’m not, so I won’t. I’ve upset them all over the years, each time provoking an energetic backlash. 

The most venomous was the B12 lobby which, as well as the usual ‘not fit to practise’ stuff, cast a hex wishing B12 deficiency on me. Three months later, it happened, with textbook neurology causing two weeks off work. How does that make you feel, B12 lobby? Apart from tired? 

Community pharmacists 

All I said was, I didn’t see why they exist. Cue a pile-on about me being rude, factually inaccurate, bigoted, hypocritical, dismissive, mean-spirited and (from the sole GP comment) ‘absolutely correct’. If those pharmacists had rubbed the red mist from their eyes they’d have seen my point: if you were reconfiguring the NHS from scratch, you wouldn’t invent community pharmacists, because their role is redundant and anachronistic. You need minor illness advice? See granny or ChatGPT. Want your meds dispensed? Go online. Urgently need a noctor? Call the ARRS brigade. 

Look at community pharmacists now. Except you can’t, because they’re disappearing, which proves my point.  

Private health screeners 

I can’t recall if I said private screeners should fry in hell, but that’s what I meant. That’s what they deserve for unscientifically exploiting health angst and dumping the results on the NHS. Their response was to offer me a whole body scan, gratis – a bit like offering a Labour voter a free Boris Johnson. 


A more recent target for all the obvious reasons, though apparently we should cut the negativity and call them ‘medical associate professionals’ (Health Education England), and show some ‘multidisciplinary respect’ (the GMC). My blogs on the subject of noctors stirred up a vigorous response – interestingly, not from noctors themselves but from those who rely on them to fill the gaps that should be filled by the real doctors who don’t exist instead of the noctors who do. 


Also known as college types with dodgy knitwear, beards and sandals who like hugging patients. Their ‘no such thing as a heartsink’ mantra meant they got grumpy with me for admitting to anti-punter sentiment. I’m not sure cardies exist now. Hopefully they were hit by an asteroid. 

LMC delegates 

They have been consistently furious that I repeatedly criticise stupid motions, or stupid votes that reject sensible motions. Echoing my appraiser they ask, if I’m so clever, why don’t I have a go myself? Which is fair. Then again, if they think it’s that easy writing blogs, why don’t they try it?  

NHS England, 

hospital doctors, TV doctors, CQC, politicians, NHS111, NICE, people who say we are ‘ideally placed’ or ‘need more training’, newspaper headline writers, admin droids, A&E, and just about everyone else we come into contact with each day. All insulted repeatedly – with no comeback, which means they knew they deserved it. 


Ah yes, the easiest target of all. ‘If it wasn’t for them, this job would be so much easier’ etc. And yes, they can be feckless, aggressive, irrational, abusive, complaining, violent, unreasonable, hypochondriacal, demanding, helpless, hopeless and smelly. And I have been known to have a right go. But – and I don’t want to sound like a cardie-carrying cardie here – what they don’t tell you is that the GP-patient warfare of your early days mysteriously eases up as you get older. And that continuity – remember that? – can really build a relationship to the point that some of the old faithfuls are damn near friends, so that when they finally shuffle off you can feel an entirely unanticipated grief. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Which is a good point to start grieving over another old friend: the Pulse print edition. What a vital organ it has been over the years, steering us through all the highs and lows (okay, the lows). And what a genuine honour it is to have the last word on the last page of the last edition, as that Pulse becomes thready, fades and finally stops. 

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex 


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

Paul Hartley 5 March, 2024 7:31 pm

Keep up the good work

David Church 5 March, 2024 9:03 pm

It may be time to take up sex and religion.
As target groups for insults I mean, not religious sex.
Although, there again, maybe ?
And have you said nothing against Unicorns and MDOs?

john mackay 5 March, 2024 10:49 pm

Your final comment about how your relationship and feelings about patients changes over the years is so true.

Not on your Nelly 5 March, 2024 11:25 pm

You can’t please everyone all the time. But all the GP who read everything you write pretty much agree with everything you say. So even of the ivory towers don’t like what you write, you the respect and following of 99% od the coal face. Thanks for saying what we all think but can not due to wokenism and political correctness gone mad.

So the bird flew away 5 March, 2024 11:32 pm

Copperfield? I thought you were dead……;)

John Graham Munro 5 March, 2024 11:52 pm

My final contribution will be similar—–”why I give G.Ps a lot of stick”

David Marshall 6 March, 2024 2:25 pm

Hey JGM we’re still waiting for the Big Reveal!

Decorum Est 6 March, 2024 5:09 pm

TC, your sometimes the only shimmer of sanity in the whole of the ‘medical press’.

Nicholas Sharvill 8 March, 2024 7:05 am

Thank you for your insights and stating the obvious even though many did not want to hear!. Many years ago i stopped reading or receiving Pulse as it was a pretty negative publication essentially able to make a good day bad and a bad day worse. Your pithy insights though could bring a smile back. Thanks and good luck

Truth Finder 8 March, 2024 3:52 pm

Thank you for the witty insights and comments, most GPs appreciate them and brings a smile to our rubbish day.

Imogen Bloor 17 March, 2024 6:50 pm

The B12 hex, wow!