Your mother is feeling very sick, but you manage to put her into bed and call your GP practice.
The receptionist says that there is no GP available in the surgery today, but there is a slot available with Mr White that afternoon if you can make it.
‘Gosh, who is he?’
‘He’s our new physician associate,’ says the receptionist proudly. ‘He is very good and, just between you and me, the older ladies adore him.’
‘OK, can I book an appointment with him?’
‘Of course. I’ll put you down for 3pm.’
You take the phone from your ear and your finger hovers over the ‘End call’ button. But something stops you.
‘Excuse me,’ you say. ‘Are you still there?’
‘Yes.’ The merest suggestion of a sigh at the end of the phone.
‘Is medically trained?’ you ask.
‘Who, Mr White?’ says the receptionist.
‘Yes, is he a doctor?’
‘Not exactly,’ says the receptionist, ‘But he has a 2:1 in Media Studies and he is very friendly.’
‘Ah, but is he a registered health professional?’
A pause. ‘Well, no, I don’t think he has to be registered, but he has two years’ training in many of the aspects of medical training, such as diagnosing illnesses and developing management plans. Plus, he has lovely warm hands.’
‘But he is regulated by somebody, surely?’
‘No, but he reports directly to the GPs in the practice. And you should see his reviews on NHS Choices.’
‘But where is Dr Brown today?’
‘Oh, well. Dr Brown is off today due to sickness. He has been off a while you see due to personal issues. Dr Green has moved to Australia with her family.’
‘What about that lovely locum I normally see? She is very good with my mum.’
‘I’m afraid she was booked up today. Bit of a shortage of locums at the moment since the seven-day hub opened up in town.’
‘So let me get this straight. You are recommending I take my sick mother to see an unregulated member of staff that has had a couple of years of training and no supervision, as opposed to a doctor with ten years medical training? Are you kidding me?’
‘Wait,’ says the receptionist. ‘We do have a slot with the practice pharmacist and they are very good.’
‘How about a Skype consultation with our community physician?’
You hang up.
Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse