Our defence organisation's fascination with chaperons has always been a source of annoyance, but we GPs are ever-resourceful and we can make these rules work to our advantage.
Yesterday, when I was locking up, Mr X came rushing over. 'I gotta see you right now, doc, I've had this awful cough for the past week.'
'This is terrible news,' I said gravely, shaking my head sadly, as if all the sorrows of the world were my sole burden.
'But what is even worse,' I lamented, 'is that there is little we can do about it this evening and you will have to return in the morning. Don't worry, my partner will be on duty and he'll be absolutely delighted to see you then. I have no doubt at all that your visit will make his day.'
'But can you not have a look at me now?' he asked. 'Alas, I cannot, alas, alack,' I said. 'There would be just the two of us in the health centre, and I would need a chaperon.
'Unlovely though you may consider yourself, on account of your weight, your spots, your speckiness and your bald head, there are certain weird people who might consider you a fine thing and an object of desire. I cannot leave myself open to the possibility of such a charge, bizarre though it might seem, so you'll have to come back tomorrow and see my partner. Don't worry, you'll put a sparkle into his morning.'
'But my wife's outside in the car,' he protested. 'She could come in.' I drew back, horrified.
'Do I understand you correctly? Are you proposing a menage a trois? I've heard of this kind of thing before,' I said, quivering with outrage, 'and I've seen it in the occasional French black-and-white film, Serge Gainsbourg looking cool and moody while Jane Birkin poses naked on a motor scooter, that kind of thing, but I never thought that the NHS would come to this.
'And what's more, I've seen your wife.'
- Dr Liam Farrell is a GP from County Armagh