Liam Farrell: When the inspector calls at the practice

Nostalgia is my great sin, and autumn is my favourite season, because when the leaves are falling I can wallow even deeper and brood about how much better things used to be.

It's all nonsense, of course; there was nothing very pleasant about a time when winters were so cold that we used to lose a few members of the family to falling icicles every year.

But nostalgia for a long-departed utopia is killing the NHS. A few years ago it was the yearning for the 'old-style hospital matron'. Perhaps it was the dream that a Hattie Jacques-like figure could solve all the hospital hygiene problems, or it was the cherished public-school memories of nurse administering suppositories.

Now we pine for 'Dr Finlay', a GP who knows their patients' names. Quite how Dr Finlay would have managed to accommodate both chasing goats up mountains and hounding parents to achieve vaccination targets is not clear.

And the search for Dr Finlay has begun; the Tories have come up with a cunning plan.

'You are the doctor?' he demanded.

'Correct,' I said, 'I have a stethoscope and all.'

He was puffed up with importance and efficiency. The overall effect was only slightly spoiled by where a pigeon had shat on his peaked cap.

'Look,' I said, 'don't blame us for the patients parking all over the place; take it up with the council.'

He bristled visibly. 'I am the inspector,' he said.

'Why of course you are,' I agreed generously.

'The inspector... of family doctors!' There was a rumble of thunder, which turned out to be a herd of cows farting outside the window; we are a rural practice, after all. Beethoven should have included it in his Pastoral Symphony.

'What happened to the primary care czar?' I asked, 'he was always snooping around the practice, him and Jeremy Hunt.'

'The czar,' he said, 'has been retired, permanently.'

'Bit rough that,' I said, as if I really cared.

'Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.'

'Hell is empty and all the devils are here,' I agreed.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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