This is an Orwellian nightmare

For GPs, Room 101 ain't big enough. We'd need room 102 and 103 as well, maybe the whole floor, maybe the whole Ministry of Light. My list is growing all the time; the Loop of Henle, instructive articles by consultants which conclude 'GPs should ...', kids, home visits, old people, sick people, etc, etc. But right at the top of my list are families, which makes the term 'family doctor' rather funny, in a living nightmare kind of way.

A visit to the doctor is regarded as yet another option for the family excursion. Instead of going to the seaside or the local cockfight, they come to the health centre, which in a way is a lot handier as they don't need to bring a picnic.

They arrive en masse: mom, hen-pecked dad, assorted siblings, the parents beaming with pride at this living, screaming, snuffly, drooling demonstration of their own fecundity.

'Lo, see what we have wrought,' they shout.

'Life! I am a giver of life! I have planted my seed in this woman,' he cries proudly.

'I am your fertile ground,' she carols in reply.

Trying to be systematic, I identify one of the children as the first patient, and make a futile attempt at corralling him into a corner.

'Have you a cough, laddie?' I say, half-heartedly, affecting an avuncular manner, which is quite difficult to simulate when you are actually praying for a quick death.

'No, he doesn't,' interrupts mother, 'but she does,' pointing at another kid, diligently investigating the bright yellow (kids love that colour) sharps bin in an unrelenting search for hepatitis B and a painful and medico-legally indefensible injury.

The consultation continues in this jolly kind of merry-go-round manner, which inevitably ends with everyone getting a prescription for antibiotics and Calpol. Rather than write eight separate prescriptions, I just stick them all on the one, and tell the parents to dole them out whatever way they want; I'm a strong believer in the doctor-patient partnership, in patient choice and in giving parents some responsibility. And in saving time and effort, because I'm a busy man.

It's not a prescription, it's a cry for help, I was thinking, but I was the one doing the crying.

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

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