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The war of the printer paper



You can tell that we’re getting bored with the junior doctors’ strike because the hot topic of conversation in the coffee room today was, ‘Whose job is it to put paper into the printers?’

We’ve all been there, half way through spewing out the eight page referral form that’s needed to get a patient’s toenails cut, the printer grinds to a halt and the red light comes on. And goes off. And comes on again. Followed by the helpful pop-up window that delights in telling you that your printer status is in error.

My vote is and always has been that the admin staff ought to perform admin tasks. I don’t ask them to pop in and take a shufty at Ms Ibiza Sunbathing Queen’s dodgy looking moles, they shouldn’t ask me to post letters, load printers or answer the phone to social workers.

My practice manager disagrees, refusing to persuade, cajole or instruct the admin staff, who go around the rooms anyway stocking up the clinical trolleys with KY jelly, speculums and tongue depressors, to check that the printers are full to the brim with Staples’ own brand copier fodder. I mean, how hard would it be to pop a couple of reams of A4 into their basket of goodies?

This is why (don’t worry, she never reads this blog) she returns to her workstation fairly regularly to find her printer devoid of the white stuff. If my printer runs out mid-consultation I nip up the corridor to her office, nick the paper out of her machine, go back to my room, check that my watch, wallet and phone are still where I left them, load up some blank sheets and press on. I have neither the time nor the inclination to fool around in the stationery cupboard. Even if I did know the combination for the lock, which I don’t.

Surprisingly, opinions were divided almost equally between the sensible doctors who want to spend our time doing stuff that only doctors can do and the fluffy bunny physicians who keep blathering on about there being ‘No “I” in team’ and how we’re all in it together. I’ll bet they even wash their own coffee cups. Wimps.

So it looks as though I may have lost the battle, if not the war. But I did get a helpful bit of advice from an old mate of mine who practises South of the River, where they still take no prisoners. He replaces the last sheet in the paper tray with a pre-printed notice.

When Dr Hotdesk prints out a blood test request form or X-ray chit or even his shopping list for the evening, should he reach the last sheet of paper in the machine, his document will be overwritten with the warning, in 30pt Comic Sans:

‘If you don’t reload this printer before you leave the building I will hunt you down like a dog and kill you. I know who you are and where you live. Have a nice day.’

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