Liam Farrell: Treasure those complaints from your patients

Complaints are precious, I read somewhere; we should hoard them like jewels, for only through complaints do we realise how our services are deficient and how to correct the deficiency.

Compliments, by contrast, are dangerous, because they are less likely to be true than complaints, encourage complacency, and may be manipulative.

Well, blow that for a game of soldiers, I say.

We put up a complaints box and all we got was a scrawl of obscene graffiti implying that my partner had a big butt (and there's nothing we can do about that, he's stuck with it).

'Before I start,' the patient said, 'I would like to say how much I admire your achievements.'

'Thanks,' I said.

'Not yours in particular, I mean,' he continued. 'The whole scientific medical thing.'

'On behalf of the whole medical community,' I said, 'I accept your thanks, it really means a lot to us that you recognise the sacrifices of Galileo, the brilliance of Pasteur, the perspicacity of Fleming, the way in which knowledge has been gleaned, often in the face of persecution and superstition. I'll organise a press release for the BBC. It makes such a fuss about the Nobel Prize, but this is much more important and gratifying.'

'However,' he said. 'There is one thing that I'm not happy about.'

'Contrary to expectations,' I said, 'my job is not to make you happy. Happiness is ephemeral, way beyond my humble remit.'

'The waiting room is not restful and relaxing,' he said. 'The chairs are uncomfortable, there's no TV or wi-fi and the magazines are all gossipy tabloids. Why don't you have The Economist?'

'Oooh,' I said, rather impressed.

'The posters on the walls are out of date,' he said. 'And the walls are painted a nauseating greenish colour.'

'You may be under a misapprehension,' I explained. 'The waiting room is not supposed to be a garden of delights, it's for waiting. You may also have noticed the absence of lace cloths and wine-buckets; this ain't no whorehouse parlour, buddy.'

'You aren't taking me seriously,' he said. 'Can I see another doctor?'

'Of course,' I said, always ready to help. 'Just take a seat in the waiting room.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Proportion of NHS GPs trained in EEA stabilises despite Brexit uncertainty

Proportion of NHS GPs trained in EEA stabilises despite Brexit uncertainty

The proportion of NHS GPs trained in the EEA has stabilised after a steady decline...

GPs split on calls to suspend appraisal for duration of pandemic

GPs split on calls to suspend appraisal for duration of pandemic

Senior GPs are divided over calls for appraisal to be halted for the rest of the...

GP fears rising over covert recording of consultations in pandemic

GP fears rising over covert recording of consultations in pandemic

Fears over patients covertly recording consultations have increased among GPs since...

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

GPonline provides an overview of the key guidance relating to coronavirus, including...

Care home vaccination to begin as Scottish minister says Pfizer vaccine packs can be split up

Care home vaccination to begin as Scottish minister says Pfizer vaccine packs can be split up

Vaccination of care home residents against COVID-19 will start on 14 December in...

How will the COVID-19 vaccination programme get underway?

How will the COVID-19 vaccination programme get underway?

Following the MHRA's approval of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 jab the government has...