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General practice needs repacking



Some weekends when all the gardening and DIY jobs are up to date I’m allowed to drive my car on a race track at something called a track day.  You can pay to drive round a circuit with other like-minded people (or Petrol Heads as we’re known) in relative safety as this is not racing.  You can take your own commuter car on track if you wish or, if you’re really serious, take a full spec race car like I do.

My car is Sabre and you’ve probably haven’t heard of one before but you probably have heard of a Radical and they are very similar in design and performance except the Sabre is half the price, but just as much fun.

Every time you take your car to a track day you are noise tested to make sure your car isn’t too loud for the circuit regulations.  This involves an official measuring your exhaust noise level with a decibel meter at a specified distance from the end of your exhaust.  If you’re too loud you fail and you don’t get to go on track. It’s as simple as that.  The usual cause of failing a noise test is your exhaust packing has deteriorated.

Now, the exhaust silencer in a race car is simply a large metal tube just over half a meter long with a smaller metal tube inside it which has many holes in it to allow exhaust gases to escape into the space between the two tubes. This space is filled with a sound-dampening material made of fine glass fibre.  The weave and density of this packing material is what makes the exhaust quieter.

When you open up an exhaust you’d be amazed how much damage the packing sustains after only a few track days.  The inner core has been subjected to so much violence in the form of heat and pressure it’s been forced away from the inner tube and compressed towards the outer leaving a large void.  Hence reduced sound energy absorption and increased exhaust noise.

By simply repacking it you can reduce exhaust noise significantly and pass the noise test.

This concept of replacing or rejuvenating the exhaust packing that is knackered beyond recognition due to hours of pressure and heat is not dissimilar to the crisis in general practice.  Polishing the exhaust in the vain hope it will make it work more efficiently simply won’t work.  It will look like new but the core has simply worn out and needs replacing with new material.

So hopefully the recent RCGP campaign for new money being put into primary care will not fall on deaf ears.  If it does then those deaf ears have probably been caused by the death moans of primary care.

I hope it’s not too late to repack general practice.  Come to think of it, a nice shine would be appreciated as well.

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.