I’ve always felt a bit uneasy giving results out over the phone. There’s no way of knowing who you’re really speaking to, and given my own personal record of three mobile phones lost in one summer, I might well be chatting to a thief. Fortunately though, this week was the first time I’ve knowingly been the victim of patient identity fraud, and it was absolutely charming in its incompetence.
I’d phoned a landline number to speak to a male patient. A female voice answered, and said she was his wife. Would I mind giving her the result, as he had just popped out, and wasn’t expected back for over an hour? Straight out of the first page of the MRCGP revision books, this one, and I rather primly said that there was sadly no chance of divulging information to her without the patient’s permission. She seemed momentarily put out by this, but suddenly, inspiration hit. From the other end of the phone line I could hear lightbulbs flashing above her head.
“Ooh, he’s just pulled in,” she said excitedly. And then, the very next second, she passed the phone to some bloke who was standing next to her. I don’t know if she imagined I’d think her husband had an ejector seat, or made a habit of parking in the kitchen.
To be fair to her deceptive prowess, she had obviously made some attempt to cover the receiver, because the next line was slightly muffled.
“Say you’re him. Go on! They’ll never know!”
An uncomfortable-sounding male voice took up the reins.
“Hello. I’d like my blood results please.”
Not a bit out of breath, you’ll notice, despite recently teleporting out of his car. Ironically, given his capability for faster-than-light travel, he was also not quite up to speed.
He was meant to be enquiring after his swab results, and hadn’t had any bloods done since 2006. In the background I could hear her hissing this vital bit of the conspiracy.
So I asked him, as you do, if he was really sure he was Mr Jones. He said he was, absolutely positive, no doubt about it. Feeling like I’d just levelled a shotgun at a barrelful of fish, I asked if he’d mind telling me his middle name and birthday. To be honest, doctor, he’d had a bit of a cold recently, and he was feeling a bit muzzy-headed. Could I hang on for a second while he tried to remember? I said I was unfortunately a bit busy, but would he mind letting Mr Jones know I’d tried to call. He said he’d be delighted to. She exploded in the background. As I gently replaced the receiver she began to deliver such a frank description of his parentage and prospects that it would have made Quentin Tarantino proud.
Dr Nick Ramscar is a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire