Liam Farrell: When it's time for the passing of the sceptre

I've never lost my reverence for good colleagues, those warriors who battle ceaselessly against the dark, on the side of the angels, even if the angels don't like it very much.

The average age of a patient in general practice is 75; multiple diagnoses, incredibly complex care, increased expectations and ever-reducing resources, but as Epictetus said: ‘The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it; skilful pilots earn their reputation from storms and tempests.’

Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, we have drunk the delight of battle and fought the long defeat in the hope that we could make things better for others, if not for ourselves. But there comes a time when we’re no longer that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, and we must pass on our values of sacrifice and selfless dedication.

‘I don’t like going to see doctors,’ said Joe.

‘And doctors don’t like you going to see doctors either,’ I agreed, glad we had found some common ground, building a relationship, although maybe not quite ready to start dating yet.

‘Look at this,’ he said.

It was scary, but then I had a brainwave; I have a degree, you know (and diplomas, which don’t really count – Diploma of Child Health, Diploma in Obstetrics, just pay the exorbitant fee and they throw the scroll at you).

The registrar should see this, I thought, he needs the experience. ‘Have you examined it?’ he asked me, with puppy-like naivety, clearly wondering if the college had a protocol for this kind of thing.

‘What do you think, my Telemachus?’ I answered – because the open-ended response encourages the registrar to think for himself.

‘We’d better examine it,’ he said, visibly girding his loins.

‘If you want to get that close, be my guest,’ I said. ‘I’ll be observing you from far away, with a telescope.’ I passed him the rubber gloves (it’s good to be needed, no matter how humble the service), but before I could shout a warning, he poked at the unexploded sebaceous cyst, with catastrophic consequences.
‘Smells like something died in here,’ said Joe.

Sometime later, when our registrar had been cleansed, I offered him encouraging words: ‘Be strong in will; to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield, especially to insalubrious body fluids.’

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

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

GPs not responsible for 'holiday cancellation letters' amid coronavirus outbreak, RCGP warns

GPs not responsible for 'holiday cancellation letters' amid coronavirus outbreak, RCGP warns

Insurers and travel companies have been asking patients to obtain letters from their...

Fully-qualified GP workforce down 277 over the past year

Fully-qualified GP workforce down 277 over the past year

The GP workforce lost 277 fully-qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) doctors in...

Talking General Practice - the new podcast from GPonline

Talking General Practice - the new podcast from GPonline

GPonline is launching a new podcast called Talking General Practice - listen to our...

GPs should not prescribe antibiotics for impetigo, says NICE

GPs should not prescribe antibiotics for impetigo, says NICE

GPs should prescribe hydrogen peroxide 1% cream rather than topical antibiotics for...

Network of 100 GP practices to carry out coronavirus surveillance testing

Network of 100 GP practices to carry out coronavirus surveillance testing

A network of 100 primary care sites across England will carry out opportunistic testing...

PCNs must check payment rules for clinical directors to avoid tax penalties

PCNs must check payment rules for clinical directors to avoid tax penalties

Primary care networks (PCNs) have just a month to make sure they are paying their...