Copperfield hates the weekend sessions that cater only to the healthy middle classes – woe betide any local who actually turns up ill
Every couple of months I do a Saturday morning shift at our branch surgery on the outskirts of town.
It nestles between some nice new two-bedroom flats with IKEA kitchens and the council estate it was originally built to serve. The Saturday surgery thing is a politically motivated scam designed to offer GP access to the young, fit, childless, affluent floating voters who live on the posh side of the line into Liverpool Street.
My problem is that the PCT has insisted that there be a proper doctor on the premises throughout the session, which starts at 8am and grinds on until 1pm. ‘Proper’ doctor is defined as ‘GP partner’ – medics further down the food chain don’t count.
So while the registrars, locums, assistants, nurses and receptionists come and go, Muggins here has to sit through the whole shooting match.
Plan A – some five-minute appointments at 8am and some more at midday, giving me time to slip off for a leisurely decaf latte and skinny muffin in the interim – was scuppered by the practice manager. To ensure my uninterrupted attendance she timetabled 18 appointments for me at 15-minute intervals.
Now I know that some of you bang on about the benefits of the quarter-hour slot. You can address the patient’s unspoken agenda, you can delve into the depths of their psyche while adopting a concerned and supportive expression. Then, and only then, do you feel comfortable in handing out a prescription for salicylic acid gel to treat their verruca.
But as far as I’m concerned you can hold a patient upside down and shake them for seven or eight minutes at the most before you’ve got all the QOF money out of their pockets that you’re going to get. Anything beyond that is purely masturbatory.
Once I’ve done the smoking nag, the smear nag, the chlamydia nag and the flu jab nag, coded them as ‘not depressed’, entered a BP reading of 148/88 or less, recorded their ethnic background and put all the chubby ones on orlistat, I’m bored as shitless as they’re going to be after their third or fourth dose.
I can’t even slot in and torment a few walking wounded chavs to pass the time. Anyone from the Staffordshire Cross Estate without an appointment gets turned away – even the ones who might actually be ill. The PCT is adamant that these sessions are reserved for patients who might find it inconvenient to attend during the week. Nice, middle-class people who make appointments and have jobs to go to. Just like the people who work for the PCT.
People who are impolite enough to show up uninvited simply get what they deserve. Their complex psychosocial problems and tendency to somatise are deemed unworthy of a 15-minute Saturday-morning consultation. They must ring the out-of-hours service on their stolen iPhones and grovel for their antibiotics, opiates and sleeping pills.
But enough’s enough. From now on, I’m rebranding the filing clerk as a ‘consultant wellness adviser’. ‘Consultant’ trumps ‘GP’ any day, but especially at weekends. She can hold the fort after midday – I’ve got a pub to go to.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at tony firstname.lastname@example.org