He plonked down in the chair and, pleasantries avoided, got straight down to business.
‘I want a blood test.’
There followed an expectant silence, broken only by the harrowing screams of the baby being vaccinated in the next room, as I waited for him to finish his sentence. Eventually, realising I would have to end the deadlock before one of us had to go for a shave, I asked:
‘A blood test for what?’
He looked at me like I was Mr Thick who had just been awarded a standing first in moronism.
‘Err, you know, for everything…’
This job would be incredibly dull without patients and their quirks.
Even after 15 years in this game I am still amazed that some patients think a ‘blood test’ is a single investigation that can magically diagnose any illness lurking beneath their skin.
‘Yes sure,’ I’d like to reply to my ‘blood testers’. ‘I’ll make sure we send the sample to Merlin’s lab, and while you’re at it you could leave a urine sample at reception so we can send that off to get your IQ tested too.’
At the other end of the spectrum are the ‘needle phobics’. Now, they do amuse me with their ‘I don’t like needles’.
‘Well you’re very odd then, because most of us relish the prospect of sharp metal tubes being jabbed in our veins. I guess you had your tattoos and piercings done under general anaesthetic?’
Coming a close second to the needle haters on GPs’ irritation scale are the ‘pill avoiders’. These patients usually give a prolonged and detailed history and then tack on the end, ‘I don’t believe in taking pills though’.
‘Well you really are in the right place, because very little of what we do here involves treatment with an oral therapy.’
Bless them. This job would be incredibly dull without patients and their quirks. I do wonder how they’ll cope in the brave new world that can’t be far off, when the current model of general practice exhales its last Cheyne-Stokes breath.
It will be all online dropdown menus, flow charts and, if they are lucky, a brief telephone consultation with a callow youth who has just completed a two-year course as a physician’s associate. I can’t imagine how this breed of hothoused Hunt automatons will be able to satisfy the foibles of the rich and diverse range of humanity that walks through our doors every day.
I’m sure we will be missed.
Dr David Turner is a GP in west London