This site is intended for health professionals only


GP or parent? The days of mollycoddling our patients must end



One gun, one bullet, one shot, no consequences to yourself.

This is my fantasy game. You have a free shot at anybody involved in the NHS. They can be living or dead and you can travel back in time if necessary.

The only condition to their assassination is that their death should maximally benefit the health service in Britain.

Now I can hear the metaphorical bullets whizzing past my head already, like a scene from a cheap western movie. Jeremy C-word is already lying on the floor looking like a bloodied Swiss cheese, as are most health secretaries since the role was created. I can’t imagine, as a profession, we would be shy in dishing out the lead to the snivelling Whitehall desk jockeys who spend their days thinking up yet more pointless box ticking exercises for us.

All good cathartic stuff, but sadly I don’t think the cessation of life in any of these individuals would make much difference to the slow-motion train crash that is the NHS. I think we need to delve a bit deeper to attack the root causes of the current mess we are in.

Now I have no idea who this/these individuals are, or indeed if their work pre or post-dated the creation of the NHS, but I think the rot set in when we were encouraged as a profession to start talking to adult patients like children.

‘Just pop up on the couch.’

‘Let’s have a quick look at your tummy.’

‘Can you wee in this pot for me?’

We are all guilty of talking to fully grown adult patients in this way from time to time and if the work of Dr Berne has any validity, then we spend a lot of time being the parent and the patient acting the child.

It is little wonder that our emergency surgeries are full of adults with colds, in-growing toenails, and verrucas – to some extent we only have ourselves to blame. We have used our medical authority to disempower patients and turn them into gibbering idiots who can’t make the simplest decisions about their own health. And then we get angry with them.

It’s not all their fault, nor is it all ours; it’s the remnants of the ‘doctor knows best’ culture from a previous age which still permeates our work today.

Unfortunately, what this means for the NHS is, the queues keep getting longer. That said, wouldn’t it be delicious to travel back in time to the late 1980s and position yourself on the banks of the Isis with a sniper rifle and take out Jeremy as he drifted down the river.

Imagine the headline: ‘Hunt killed on a punt’.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London