Liam Farrell: I'm a celebrity, get me a fellowship!

'Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!/But we've got our brave captain to thank./(So the crew would protest) that he's bought us the best/A perfect and absolute blank!'

The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll

Other medical disciplines are fortunate. They are more predictable and can apply more scientific rigour; their maps are complete, easier to plot.

General practice, by contrast, is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond; science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings. Anything can walk through our door; whatever it is, we can handle it.

Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy through mind-numbing triviality to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible and almost impossible to pigeon-hole.

This is why I have great affection for the RCGP. Some of my colleagues consider them a bunch of folk who are insecure about being 'ordinary' GPs and believe dressing up in purple and strutting around in academic professions will stop hospital consultants looking down on them.

But the college, to its credit, took in hand this great intangible and tried to impose discipline and order on it. The map will always be incomplete - large sections are still labelled 'Here be dragons' - but it is a praiseworthy attempt.

And yet the RCGP remains capable of curiously lovable buffoonery. Remember the college tartan? The idea was bad enough, but the execution was worse. The dominant colour of the tartan was beige, which doesn't exactly say 'power' or 'authority' or 'gravitas'; it's more like: 'wipe your feet.'

The RCGP surpassed itself when it presented celebrity chef Jamie Oliver with an honorary fellowship. I know many fine GPs deserving of recognition from their peers but, instead, our star-struck professional academic body prefers sucking up to a celebrity. I see a new TV series on the horizon: I'm a Celebrity, Get Me a Fellowship!

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

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