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I’m here in body, but my mind is free to wander along the fish counter of life


Monday lunchtime, and another 50 minutes spent listening to some people spouting some stuff about something in the seminar room while I shove a few salad leaves around a Morrison’s ‘Eat Smart’ container and drain the remaining dregs of a low calorie soup in a cup product.

Tonight, I think, salmon, but maybe sea bass. Even as I’m weighing up the pros and cons of poaching and grilling and the competing merits of pinot gris and sancerre I’m distracted by the grinding of chairs against flooring.

‘Well, it’s been lovely to meet you all and at least you’ll be able to put faces to our names now that we’ve met. If you need any more information about the services we offer feel free to contact us on our office number or through the PCT switchboard.’

What touching naivety. Rest assured, people, that I could bump into you in the pub tomorrow and have no inkling that we’d ever set eyes on each other before. I have no idea what half the abbreviations you used in your presentation stood for; in fact, I have no idea what your entire organisation stands for. Like all of your ilk that have gone before, you have scored precisely zero on my Give-A-Damn-O-Meter. You do your job, just leave me alone to do mine. It was obvious from your first PowerPoint slide that you have no understanding of my work as a GP, so don’t expect me to feign fascination about yours as a… Whatever your job title is this month.

I’m sitting here now for exactly the same reason I’ll be sitting here next Monday, because this meeting is classified as ‘educational’ and the alternative way of earning brownie points, pushing a lukewarm chicken tikka around a lukewarm plate while listening to some twat in a bow tie talking nonsense about Big Pharma’s latest cure for being a bit shy at parties is even less appealing.

Anyway, I have patients waiting to be seen, test results waiting to be filed and junior hospital doctors’ applications for a severe and memorable bollocking to read, those being any discharge documentation containing the phrase, ‘GP to chase’.

As we all leave, the chairman thanks the visitors for letting us hear such an interesting presentation and draws the meeting to a close.

‘Becky,’ he asks, ‘could you make sure that you minute the names of all the doctors present for CQC purposes? Bless you. Lovely.’

Say what????

Nobody’s leaving the room now, mainly because I’m not leaving the room and I’m plenty big enough to block the doorway. Minute the names ‘for CQC purposes?’ What the PHUQ?

At least he had the good grace to look sheepish and mumble something that might look apologetic in a good light. Er, yeah. When the CQC people pop round on inspection day and ask you if you’ve ever heard of the Patient Befriending Service or the Joint Enterprise Chiropody Initiative and you deny everything, I can check the audit trail and confirm that you were present at meetings when such weighty matters were discussed; fully, frankly, freely and in detail.

I’ve been at hundreds, perhaps thousands, of seminars, lectures and meetings about which I remember absolutely nothing (despite being stone cold sober at the time). I offer as Exhibit A every single moment I must have spent being taught about anaesthetics, with ‘B’ covering brucellosis, ‘C’ the complement cascade and so on through to ‘Z’ for Zoon’s balanitis.

I consider it a bonus that my memory has been able to cleanse itself so thoroughly of the detritus of a medical education, leaving me to concentrate on the things that either really matter or actually interest me. When I get on to Mastermind you can take it as read that my specialist subject will not be Shakespeare’s Richard II or the biology of green flowerless plants, even though I have been forced to study both at some length along the way.

The minutes might inform the CQC that I was here in the flesh, but they need to realise that my mind is free to wander along the fish counter of life at the first sign of tedium, repetition or corporate rubbish.

I might remember nothing, I might remember everything, but there are no guarantees. I’ll remember today though, for just long enough to write about it.

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