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That poster? Ah. Yes. Sorry about that

My PM appears in the doorway with that expression on her face. You know, the one that says, “We’ve had a complaint.”

“We’ve had a complaint,” she says.

“Yeah, well, whatever, they’re always complaining about something,” I reply.

“A complaint about our posters.”

“Fine, we said we needed some new ones, OK, sort it out.”

“It is about the new ones. Or one of them.”

“Sorry, admin, not clinical. Not interested.”

“Oh, I think you will be.”

Which is enough to tingle my interest-sensors, so I look up to read the bright, laminated poster which she is now holding six inches from my face. Those of you who wish to experience what I experienced – and believe me, you do – just Google Image search “NHS posters” and there it is, second row and fifth one along. For those of you who can’t be bothered, I’ll describe it: bog standard NHS poster with pics of various pills and capsules, and the main caption, “Unfortunately, no amount of antibiotics will get rid of your cold”.

So? So, underneath, in a much smaller but clearly legible font, it says, “So stop wasting our time you f***ing plebs”. Except the expletive is undeleted.

This is pretty funny. Even funnier is the fact that this poster, innocently downloaded and unwittingly pinned up by the PM, was part of a drive to refresh our waiting room display in anticipation of a looming CQC visit. The worst CQC outcome is “Inadequate”, right? There is no “Frankly offensive”, is there?

But even funnier than that, and I’m not making this up, is the fact that this poster was on the wall, in a prominent position, in our waiting room for three whole weeks before a disgruntled punter brought it to our attention. I appreciate this might have something to do with literacy levels or waiting-room glaze-eye. But I prefer to think that some of my patients read this and thought, “Yep, that’s what this practice would say”. And a few may even have reasoned, “Oh, OK, fair enough, that means me, I’ll get my coat”.

“That,” I say to my PM, ‘”is shocking and appalling. I simply cannot believe we’ve done that. It’s unforgiveable. It needs an apology and a re-design.” So, obviously, we’ve made the font on the “f***ing” sentence much bigger.

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