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Goodbye seems to be the longest word

What’s the record number of times that someone can say goodbye on leaving a GP’s consulting room? A lady earlier today managed about 12 before getting out the door. ‘Bye love, thanks again, bye pet, see you later, thanks again and cheerio, until next month then, bye…’ At the same time her husband was doing much the same thing. I reckon they managed 20 between them.

Sometimes I regret that my consulting room is so big. The seven or eight yards between the patient’s chair and the door can seem an awful lot longer – and because the door is getting a bit sticky they can usually manage to fit in another couple of farewells while they’re yanking at it.

What with these protracted leavings and the comments everyone apparently feels obliged to make about the new skeleton – ‘He looks rougher than I feel!’ ‘He’s been waiting even longer than me, by the look of it!’ It’s only been there a few weeks and I’ve heard them all – it can add a couple of minutes to an already packed consultation.

However there’s another time-consuming element to my consultations these days. Somehow, via the practice grapevine, my patients seem to know I’ve been in hospital. And as most are decent souls, they want to know how I’m getting on.

I don’t have the time or inclination to make a quarter of every consultation about me. But I seem powerless to stop it. Maybe I should get a handout made and give it to anyone who asks so they can read it at home.

‘Ah yes, but we’re not here to talk about me, are we?’ I say with a brittle smile, but it doesn’t make any difference. A surprising proportion of them get uncomfortably tactile. I’ve had my shoulders and thighs patted, my hand held. I’ve even had my head hugged twice. (That was weird.) I’m getting more kisses from patients these days then I get from the wife, which is never a good thing. ‘GMC, GMC, GMC,’ I intone under my breath, as yet another overly maternal housewife takes a run-up.

The hugs from blokes are the worst, of course. We Do Not Do That In Sunderland.

One element of this concern is the worry, often explicitly stated, that I will retire or die and thus stop being their GP/listening post/emotional crutch. Many GPs make the mistake of taking this seriously. We are just not as important to the patients as we would like to believe, no matter what they might tell us. They will find someone else. They always have, always will.

The first time I had a cardioversion I ended up going back to work the next day, and had the uncomfortable experience of sitting there holding my shirt away from my blistered chest while people moaned that they couldn’t possibly be taken off their benefits, not with these feet.

I should have listened to every single medical friend I have, who advised me to ‘take some time off, you fool!’ Sound advice. We should all bear it in mind.

Anyway, until next time. See you later, look after yourself, mind how you go…