The health minister personally invites you

I read in the Sunday papers that the minister of health was planning to write each one of us; he apparently intended to go over the BMA's head and appeal directly to GPs to provide extended surgery hours.

So I wasn't surprised when I received the following letter the next morning (I had to correct the spelling and the grammar and delete the vulgarity; it took a while):

Dear Liam

Gosh, being a minister is just brilliant! They give us all kinds of cool stuff and I get to be on TV a lot, you'll never guess who I met last week, Jade from Big Brother, she was class, and Madge from Neighbours, she was really nice and down to earth, not at all like a big star.

I got a load of nice suits and ties and a big shiny car and someone to drive me around. Nearly everyone has to suck up to me and I can be as nasty as I like back to them, while I only have one person to suck up to (I was always good at sucking up). I don't even need the most minimal understanding of anything about health. All I have to do is turn up at receptions and things and patronise everyone mercilessly and pass the buck to a dispensable underling when something goes wrong.

Now and then They give me a speech to read out (I was always good at reading). I only have to look sincere, or slightly less smarmy than usual, and act as if I know what I am talking about (though I don't, and I never will).

I know you feel like a sucker because you are actually working for a living and apparently (according to the evidence They give me) doing an incredibly efficient and cost-effective job. But since you are already doing about a hundred things at once, They say that doing another one will be no sweat to you; when you want something done, ask a busy man, They say.

So come on, old pal, old buddy, what about it? We, your government, will be ever so grateful, and we will demonstrate our gratitude unequivocally by continuing to take you for granted and trying to undermine you whenever it suits us.

Your Friend,


PS I've an awful cold, could you send me a prescription for an antibiotic?

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

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