At around two minutes, it was one of my shortest ever consultations. But it was unique in that a) At no point did I have a conversation with the patient and b) It was the most annoying interaction I’ve experienced in 20+ years at the coalface. I’m blogging about it so it’s recorded for posterity. Plus I’ll benefit from the catharsis.
I can hear him on his mobile phone as he walks – at his own loping pace - down the corridor to my room. And my ‘emergency patient’ – a 20-ish TOWIE geezer-bloke – keeps his mobile glued to his ear, and his conversation going, as he enters. I wait, because, with other patients, this has happened before. Continuation of banal phone chat and brazen disregard for my presence hasn’t, though. I’m speechless, literally, which is why I don’t speak.
He rummages in his pocket, still talking, and fishes out a urine sample. As an aside from his ‘Yeah right’s and ‘He never!’s , he says – just vaguely in my direction – ‘Check that for a urine infection, would you?’ Then it’s back to the phone.
By now I’ve regained my voice. So I try requests, of escalating degrees of annoyance, to get him to terminate his call. From an admirably restrained, ‘Would you mind ending your conversation so I can deal with your problem?’ Through a simmering, ‘Look, if you’re too busy to speak to me directly, why not continue your call outside so I can see some other emergencies?’ To a frankly desperate and ridiculous, ‘Look, for God’s sake, you could set off the machines!’
No response. But he does, at this point, cover the mouth piece, turn one degree towards me and mutter, ‘I feel like I’m peeing razor-blades’.
Excellent. Who needs any more history than that? I dig out a leaflet for the local GUM clinic and lean in, close to him. ‘I’m afraid you’ve got a nasty sexually transmitted infection,’ I shout, loud enough to ensure that the person on the other end of the phone will hear. I sincerely hope it’s his girlfriend.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex