This site is intended for health professionals only


An impressive pile of the proverbial on the stairs



To those of you who expect this column to demonstrate some insight into the State of General Practice, I apologise. I’m not sure this one will. It’s just a story about something that happened.

I drive into work as per normal on a Monday morning. Park the car, scoop the weekend overflow paperwork from the back seat, and drag psyche and physique up the ‘doctors only’ staircase. So far, so normal. Then, halfway up, I spot it: an impressive pile of steaming excrement. In fact, because I first notice it while I’m one flight of steps below, there’s a deeply unpleasant moment when faeces and I are face to face. If poo can have a face. I think this one does. And it seems to be mocking me.

There’s something about this pile that suggests it’s of human origin. Dogs don’t crap on stairs, do they? Not even in Essex. Besides, its positioning looks deliberate and provocative. I reckon it’s a protest-poop.

Anyway. I step over it and enter the building. As I walk down the corridor, I realise I’m humming that tune once sung by Robin the Frog on The Muppet Show. You know, the ‘Halfway down the stairs’ one? Except I add an ‘h’ to the word at the end of the first line.

I break the news to my practice manager. She’s unfazed. She’s seen this type of thing before. She’s dealt with kids peeing in lifts. She’s dealt with people graffiti-ing ‘F**k you knobhead’ right over the main patient entrance. She’s even dealt with someone who responded to an antibiotic refusal by vomiting on her car. So do-dos are a doddle.

Except it doesn’t quite work out that way. Apparently, the designated crap-cleaner bloke is on holiday, and there ensues a flurry of emails to establish who can sort out this, er, issue, and how quickly.

The stand-in has not attended the relevant training (now that’s one to add to the PDP). ‘Normal’ cleaners aren’t allowed to deal with ‘this sort of thing’. So the issue is ‘escalated’ while, ironically, the excrement remains firmly on the middle step.

‘Infection control’ get involved. We are advised to keep our windows closed. Really. The phrase ‘internal matter’ is misconstrued as meaning the offending pile is indoors. More confusion. More delays. More emails. It seems it’s no one’s job. Except, obviously, it was someone’s.

Eventually, we learn that crap-busters are coming. Trouble is, they need a jetwash, and that’s currently unavailable, presumably doing some other shit. Days pass. The crap hardens and festers.

Anyway, that’s it, really. Of course, eventually – a week or two later – it’s gone. Perhaps cleaned away by someone with the right certificate, perhaps washed away by the rain. It’s definitely not there now. Oddly, we kind of miss it. There’s this brown-ring stain where it was, like the outline of a turd-murder. It seems sad, somehow.

So. An absolutely crap, stinking job that no one wants to touch and is strangely missed when it’s gone.

Like I said, nothing whatsoever to do with the State of General Practice.

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