Liam Farrell: My innovative approach to screening patients

'I have simple tastes,' said Oscar Wilde, 'I am always satisfied with the very best.'

When I was a young doc, I didn't quite appreciate this; I didn't mind things being rough and ready, but now that I've matured, I like a bit of comfort and style.

A few years ago, I bought an X-ray viewing screen for the surgery, and it now shares pride of place with my Diploma in Child Health (only joking; it made a great paper plane - nearly put my partner's eye out) and a picture of myself shaking hands with one of the popes, I forget which, you can't quite see his face, but I definitely remember telling me at the time that he was Pope Something-or-other, and he had all the white gear, and I didn't feel I could call the Pope a liar to his face.

Now, you and I know that an X-ray screen is bugger-all use in terms of patient management, but it does help create a certain ambience, adds a bit of tone to the place; patients still have great faith in the therapeutic powers of the X-ray and having such a totemic symbol on the wall sends a subliminal signal that I'm a high-powered professional, right up to speed with the latest technology, and not just some old corduroy-jacketed fuddy-duddy with spats and a prescription pad.

It's also occasionally useful as a diversionary tactic. During one of those tedious consultations which seems to be going nowhere, I'll get up suddenly, clip in an old picture (I bought a job lot on eBay for a fiver), and look at the screen musingly, stroking my chin in what I like to think is a professorial manner (I've practised it in front of the mirror). Then I'll shake my head sadly, give a heartfelt sigh, and murmur, 'Poor chap'.

I'll return to my chair, close my eyes briefly in fake despair, and say, 'You may think you have problems, but you should count your blessings, old fellow, you could be like our friend up there.' I have better things to do, it implies, life-or-death decisions to make, there's big stuff going down. It helps to put things in perspective.

'Now,' I'll say, 'How about that passport application form?'

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