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Devon GPs’ ‘don’t come to us’ leaflet didn’t go far enough – so I wrote my own

I’d like to send a letter of congratulations to the practice in Devon, which had the genius idea of sending its patients a leaflet outlining local services that don’t require a GP referral, but I can’t, because NHS England would probably object to the wording and stop me from sending it.

Just as they did with the leaflet, in fact, which is odd because a) By the sounds of it, this brilliant innovation would have sped up access of patients to relevant local services while relieving the practice’s workload, thereby freeing up appointments for those who really need them, and b) I hadn’t realised that we’d sunk to the point where NHS England censors our communications to patients.

My only criticism would be that the practice didn’t go far enough – somewhere, inspired by their example, I now intend to go. So here is the leaflet I’ve devised for my patients. Feel free to photocopy and adapt as you think fit.

‘Dear patients,

I’m up to my man-boobs in sodding work, so if it’s okay with you, I’d like you all to bugger off and terrorise some other poor sod for a while. Say just for the next six months or so, while I have a bit of a catch up?

I’m not leaving you in the lurch, though, because there is a whole heap of services you can pitch up to without a note from me. True, I do all the things they can do and better but frankly, I’ve had enough.

So before you even think about trying to book an appointment with me, please consider whether you would be better served by one of the following: A&E, an ambulance, a taxi, your consultant, PALs, physiotherapy, speech therapy, audiology, occupational therapy, any sodding thing with ‘therapy’ after it, an osteopath, a chiropractor, the dietitian, a social worker, a health visitor, the midwife, the housing officer, the job centre, the citizens advice bureau, public health, the GUM clinic, the Red Cross, your MP, the priest, the exorcist, the community psychiatric nurse, the community nurse, the community paediatrician, the community geriatrician, the community drug and alcohol team, the admissions avoidance team, the avoiding the admissions avoidance team team, a matron of some description, the mental health crisis team, the crisis avoidance team, the crisis creation team, the Macmillan nurse, the palliative care team, the undertaker, the ambulance service, the defib which is on the wall by the main entrance of the village hall (you know, down that road near the new supermarket, by where that garage used to be – what’s it called?), the vet, the priest, the complementary therapist, the COPD team, the stoma nurse, the incontinence nurse, the continence nurse, the intercontinental continence/incontinence nurse, the infectious diseases control nurse, whatever the tissue viability nurse is, Alcoholics Anonymous, the counsellor, a councillor, God, your hairdresser, a chiropodist, a podiatrist, the dentist, the optician, the pharmacist, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, and anyone else who knows me.

But not NHS 111, obviously.

Love and best wishes,

Dr C’

And if NHS England takes exception and wants to pay me a visit, I can assure them of a warm welcome. I’ll be the one holding the flame-thrower.

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