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The adventures of Mr Strugatsky and the GP appointment

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Dear Mr Hancock,

Do you mind if I call you Matty?

I’m writing a journal at the moment, Matty and I’m calling it Mr Strugatsky Remembers. It’s a bit like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, only better. I cover all sorts of things in my memoirs, but I’ve sent you through a selected extract so that you can see how difficult it is for ordinary people like me to access the health service.


Monday morning

Woke up at 5.30am. I could’ve sworn I had the day off, but my wife woke me up taking the curtains down. She said they needed to be washed and ironed because it was high time we had a spring clean. I said it wasn’t even spring yet! But she just ignored me.

I went out to tidy up the shed. In the corner is an old beanbag that’s been rotting there for years. I tried squashing it into the bin but there wasn’t enough room. So I got a pair of scissors and sliced it open. Just at the moment a gust of wind blew in from the east and millions (I’m guessing there were millions, I didn’t actually count them) of small polystyrene balls went everywhere. They went into the shed, around the bins, down the path at the side of the house and even into the drains! It looked like it had been snowing.

I told my wife what had happened and she came out to have a look. She told me I’d just have to roll my sleeves up and clean it all up. But as I stepped out, armed with my dust pan and brush, I tripped over the hem of a loose curtain and fell head first into the mound of polystyrene balls. One of them, and I’m not sure which one, went right up my nose.

Monday midday

I’ve been trying to remove the little polystyrene ball from my nose all morning. My wife had a good look with a torch, but she couldn’t see anything, so I decided to phone the surgery. The receptionist told me there was at least a two-week wait and that I was best off waiting for a call back from the doctor. When he did eventually phone back, he told me he’d take a look at me and then he made this sort of weird choking noise.

Monday afternoon

Sat in the waiting room for three hours. None of these people look unwell to me, apart from the Julian Assange lookalike – eventually his legs gave way and they had to call him an ambulance, poor sod. A poster on the wall suggested I should get tested for chlamydia. Apparently chlamydia is a spikey green goblin that loves oral sex and lives in your pants! Who would’ve thought it! I spent a long time trying to sniff out the polystyrene ball to no avail.

How embarrassing! When I went to shake my doctor’s hand, lots of little polystyrene balls went all over his carpet. He didn’t look very pleased and he looked even less pleased when I asked him if he could make sure I didn’t have a green goblin living in my pants. He said I would need another appointment for that.

How difficult it is for ordinary people to access the health service

Monday night

Polystyrene balls everywhere! When I got home, the big pile I’d made next to the bins had blown all over the road. They filled up the guttering and had even blown over to the other side of the road. My neighbour clearly isn’t pleased.

The doctor said he couldn’t see anything up my nose and that maybe I was imagining it, so I decided to google ’small polystyrene balls’. I wish I hadn’t – in some extreme cases, they can cause cancer, and I don’t like the sound of that – it sounds even worse than spikey green goblins.

I decided to get a second opinion. I took a sample of polystyrene balls in a jam jar with me, so that the out-of-hours doc knew exactly what to look for. When I got there, she looked at the pot and then spotted one on my shoulder. She said maybe that was the one that had been up my nose and that I must have sneezed it out. I told her that it was probably a different polystyrene ball, because there were millions of them. She said that because I was so worried about it, I would have to sit and wait for the nose doctor to come down. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a nose doctor. If I had done, I would’ve gone straight to see him and missed out the middle-man.

Tuesday morning

It’s three in the morning and I’ve finally been given the all-clear. The special nose doctor poked a camera up my nose and said there was nothing there. I asked him where it had gone and he said that I’d probably swallowed it. I asked him if I needed to see a special tummy doctor because it might block up my insides. He told me that I would just have to go home and would probably poo it out. I’ve noticed how many times these doctors used the word ’probably’! You just can’t get a straight answer these days.

Tuesday evening

Pood out the polystyrene ball! I phoned my GP and offered to send him a picture of it, but he just congratulated me and made that weird choking noise again.

When I went to tell my wife the good news, I heard a crashing noise. She’d fallen off the step ladder whilst trying to put up the curtains, and I found her on the floor holding her ankle! Looks like another trip to the docs for us!

So Matty (do you mind if I call you Mr Hancock?), I hope you enjoyed that little snapshot of real life and that it gives you something to think about as you try to improve the NHS.

Kind regards,

Mr Strugatsky

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Australia who previously practised in Glasgow and Aberdeen