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‘Why are you writing ‘retard’ in my notes?’

The risk of being misconstrued is all part of the fun of general practice. In terms of sticks that patients will get the wrong end of, well, frankly, you couldn’t make it up.

Which is why I haven't, even though these two examples take some believing:

  • A man who thought ‘SOB’ on his chest X ray meant I was referring to him as a 'sonofab****'. Now, I might well have viewed him as one, but I certainly wouldn’t have used it as an indication for chest radiography.

  • A woman who was affronted by the fact that I had prescribed her Adalat Retard on the basis that she thought the 'Retard' referred to her. Which maybe has a certain circular logic to it.

Anyway, the thing is, I’m all in favour of using BNP as a screening blood test to determine exactly who deserves an echo.

But I do suspect that those who cost these things out fail to take into account the long-winded explanation I’m obliged to go into – in view of the lessons learned from a) and b) above – when I scrawl 'BNP' on the path form.

'That stands for B-type natriuretic peptide, by the way,' I explain, 'which is a chemical in your blood linked with certain heart problems, not an implication that you are, or ever have been, a member of a far-right political party formed in 1982 as a splinter group of the National Front.'

On the other hand, the tattooed, no-necked, knuckle-headed patient in front of me has just been making breathless and derogatory remarks about the Asian registrar he saw last week. So instead of giving him my usual spiel, under 'clinical information', I just scrawl, 'Fascist'.

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