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12 things that turn my hair grey

Given that we become more irascible as we get older, I’m going to use today’s distressing marker of ageing – the discovery of my first grey pubic hair – as an excuse to list 12 things that make me homicidally angry.

1 Patients who, when referring to the perceived inaction of another doctor, use the double negative: ‘He didn’t give me nuffink.’ Which is almost as annoying as the bovine stare they give me when I respond, brightly: ‘So he did give you something, then?’

2 Patients who list absolutely everything they eat each day, in chronological order, whenever I make the schoolboy error of mentioning their weight. As if they’re truly demonstrating some kind of dietary piety, and as if I give a toss.

3 Anyone who has ever said, is currently saying, or might consider saying in the future: ‘Every complaint is an opportunity to learn.’ There is some truth in it, though, because what I’ve learned from every complaint is that every complainant is a vengeful sod.

4 Junior doctors who sign off discharge letters with ‘GP to chase up’ whatever. What a naive view of the competing priorities of primary care these self-important tossers must have to think I might be arsed to establish the result of an MSU in an elderly lady they’ve misdiagnosed as having a UTI, because they always do. This sin is committed so frequently, unthinkingly and high-handedly that I would genuinely like to beat the perpetrators with a baseball bat. And no, I will not chase up the resultant CT brain.

5 Patients who ‘can’t swallow tablets’ – and yet, mysteriously, can swallow a 12-inch deep pan pizza with extra pepperoni.

6 Patients who seem to have DNA’d (hooray!) only to reappear on the visit list (boo!) because they were too ill to attend. Cruel.

7 Patients who, nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds into the consultation, say: ‘Anyway, that’s not why I came.’ Well, it is now.

8 NICE, for prefacing every sodding bit of guidance with a box entitled: ‘Patient-centred care’, which tells us we should take into account patients’ individual needs and preferences, yada yada yada, as if we: a) don’t do that already; b) need reminding each time; and c) can’t see it for the odious, sanctimonious pile of self-regarding crap that it really is.

9 Anyone currently involved in QOF for transforming it from a halfway decent idea into a soul-destroying deconstruction of my job. May you get wasps in your armpits.

10 Hospital secretaries who never answer the frigging phone.

11 Patients who, when I’m listing the potential side-effects of the drug I’m prescribing, say
‘I get that already’, just to remind me that they suffer some symptoms in silence.

12 Casualty officers who arrange a blood test, tell the patient it’s abnormal and should be dealt with by the GP, then fail to send me the result of the test which, actually, does not need follow-up and should not have been done on a patient who should not have attended A&E in the first place.

I could go on. But I’ve got to dye my hair. 

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.