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The all you can eat buffet is almost over



Teeth encrusted with cornflake fragments and bellies stuffed with fry-up, they would then set about polishing off the conserves. They would call for yet more slices of toast as they shovelled the remains of the marmalade pots into their mouths on buttered fragments of sliced white.

Watching the guests on the all-inclusive package holidays at feeding time, was one of the few lighter moments of growing up in the small hotel my parents ran when I was a child.

It struck me recently that the behaviour of these guests is how many people treat the NHS. It is rare anybody seems satisfied, however much you do for them they still want that little bit more.

I had done what I thought to be a very thorough job with a patient the other day.

When the current orgy of gluttony finally ends, there won’t be much but a plate of cold sandwiches left for the rest of us

To be fair he has a long list of medical problems and had booked a double appointment. In that 20 minutes though we had: sorted a referral to the pain clinic for his chronic backache, agreed a combination of treatments for his erectile dysfunction and arranged a follow up with the urologist. I had listened to an extremely detailed description of his migraines and suggested some analgesics that may help. I had checked his BP, suggested some ways he might lose weight and done a medication review. A pretty good job I thought.

He got up and headed for the door and with perfect Columbo timing turned and uttered those dreaded four words: ‘Just one more thing….’

My heart sank lower than one of Donald Trump’s speeches and I forced my face back into the rictus of a fake smile that would have put a calendar girl from the 70s to shame.

‘Yes?’ I uttered through gritted teeth.

‘Can I have some of that gel for my knees.’

Not wanting to bore you with the details, there then followed a heated discussion where I informed him that yes I could prescribe him an NSAID gel but not the branded one he was asking for. I then suggested the brand of gel he wanted is available off the shelf at supermarkets.

This did not go down well and he pleaded poverty.At this point my rictus smile was in serious danger of giving way under the sheer pressure of expletives building up behind it.You see, during his consultation, he had just mentioned to me how much he had just enjoyed his recent trip to the Seychelles.

If the NHS is like an all you can eat buffet, when the current orgy of gluttony finally ends, there won’t be much but a plate of cold sandwiches left for the rest of us.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London