The only books I read these days are children’s books. An untouched GP update manual sits on my shelf and whispers: ‘You disgust me, you underachieving loser’, every time I look at it, but I do have a well-thumbed box of the Mr Men series.
Sometimes I drift off while reading them to my four-year-old daughter. And as I fall asleep to Roger Hargreaves’ psychedelic shoes I’m usually woken up by having my ears pulled.
Some nights though, when the lights are out and the house is quiet she lets me make up my very own story, but only if it’s about a dolphin, or a mermaid. And what happens to them is tightly regulated as well.
Me: ‘Once upon a time a mermaid was splashing in the sea…’
My daughter: ‘No she wasn’t. She was on a rock, wasn’t she daddy?’
Me: ‘Oh yes silly me. Once upon a time a mermaid was sat on a rock and she was combing her lovely long hair.’
My daughter: ‘That’s all wrong! She doesn’t have any hair’
It’s torture. I’m concerned about what I have spawned.
But medicine is no different. We’ve clamped our working lives in irons and created an environment that kills creativity stone dead. We’ve got guidelines and inspectors and revalidation and the GMC and CPD points to rack up and, oh no, that update manual is whispering to me again and they’re all pressing their mad swivelling eyeballs up to that hole in the wall. Can you hear them breathing?
I’m left feeling that freedom of speech is neither possible nor desirable. I’ve already lost my Je Suis Charlie badge down the back of the sofa.
Now where was I? Oh yes. ‘The mermaid waved to her friend on the beach’
My daughter: ‘No she didn’t. She can’t move her arms.’
Me: ‘Why ever not?’
My daughter: ‘Because she’s wearing a seatbelt.’
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.