Government deals in deceit

This is a great time to be Irish. For the first time in hundreds of years emigration is no longer the chief option for our young people. But when I was a junior doctor, things were very different.

P J really wanted to work in Canada and had applied for his medical working visa. Meanwhile, we managed to obtain some Canadian Embassy notepaper, and we sent him an official-looking letter regretting that his application had not been successful, but that it had been passed on to the medical corps of the Mounted Police, who apparently were keen on Irish recruits.

‘Fair enough,’ said P J in the res, ‘once my foot’s in the door, I’ll be alright.’

A few days later, he received a further letter, again on official-looking paper, from a Dr Pierre Marchand, medical director of l’Association de Mounties Médicales, welcoming his interest and outlining in some sober detail the requirements for registration. Okay so far, but the letter ended with the line: ‘We Mounties are a jolly bunch who like to ride and sing songs, so a good singing voice and riding experience would be beneficial.’

Time to smell a big rat perhaps, but it was just about believable in the context of the rest of the letter and the previous letter, and P J really, really wanted to believe it.

So, sure enough, totally oblivious to all the sniggering behind his back, he booked himself in for riding and singing lessons before you could say Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald.

A few days later, another missive from Dr Marchand arrived, with a list of popular Mountie songs, which, he suggested, P J might consider learning: Mountie Bounty, Stand Up Mountie, Mountie Boots Are Shining Sprightly Gay. By this stage, not even P J could suck it up any further, so the whole charade was over, although the sheer malicious joy of toying with a young man’s hopes and dreams remain a pleasant memory to this day.

The secret of this successful prank lay in the initial plausibility. Once P J’s foot was in the door, the deceit could be extrapolated.

The technique isn’t new; the major religions have been doing this for thousands of years. It’s the same principle the DoH has employed with our new contract. Initial targets for smears and vaccinations seemed reasonable enough, but once those had been accepted, it was only a matter of time before we were giving out pointless and time-consuming questionnaires to people with depression. Having to wear a camp uniform and sing Stand Up Mountie might not be so bad after all.

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Woman holding face in pain

Should GPs treat patients presenting with dental problems?

The MDU's Dr Kathryn Leask considers what GPs should do if a patient presents with...

Conservative Party leadership candidate and foreign secretary Liz Truss

Liz Truss vows to resolve GP pension tax crisis if she becomes prime minister

Liz Truss has affirmed her commitment to resolving the GP pensions crisis but has...

Baby receiving a vaccine in their thigh

JCVI advises changes to routine childhood and HPV immunisation schedules

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended a change...

GP consultation

General practice delivering 'up to double the appointments it is paid for'

General practice in England may be delivering as many as double the number of appointments...

Sign outside BMA House

GP suicide sparks calls for measures to protect doctors from spiralling workloads

The government and policymakers must do more to safeguard doctors and NHS staff from...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Living with long COVID

In August we’re bringing you some of the best interviews from series one of the podcast....