Pay peanuts and you get GPs

‘Hi, I’m Duncan from International Medical Research,’ says the effervescent young man. ‘Whaddaya want?’ I snarl graciously.

'We're conducting a survey,' he bubbles, 'on anti-depressant prescribing, and it should only take about 30 minutes, give or take another 30 minutes.'

'Not in a billion years pal, not if you marinated me upside down in a pool of orang-utang sweat.'

But he is irrepressible.

'Attractive though that sounds, sir' he continues, 'stay with me for just a moment. We at International Medical Research appreciate what a valuable and indispensable service you provide for this great country of ours and we fully understand how precious your time is, and so we will pay you an honorarium of £10, or present you with a £15 gift token, or, wait for it, donate £20 to a charity of your choice.'

Well, bless my soul,' I say, 'An honorarium? Is that prestigious or what? Why didn't you say so at first? Such generosity, such largesse, sleep with my daughter, why don't you? I'm gratified that you regard us with such profound respect. £10, now that's what I call a princely sum; as prostitutes go I'm very reasonable.

'Your organisation also sounds most reputable, not at all like a gang of money-grubbing shysters, and you yourself sound not at all like a two-bit hustler, but like a decent young man just trying to earn an honest living;  I'm sure you would rather be out there, on the streets, with the kids, opening a hostel for homeless children or working for world peace,

‘So what are we waiting for, let's get cracking with this fascinating and informative interview which I'm sure will challenge some of my deeply-held yet almost certainly erroneous beliefs about mental health; the patients can wait, they're probably very sick anyway, if they're fit to walk down to the surgery and sit in our deliberately uncomfortable chairs they can't be all that bad.'

OK, I made the last bit up, what I actually said was 'Get out of my face before I hurt you.' But it hasn't stopped me from continuing to receive similar calls, which suggests that there are still GPs out there who are happily collaborating with the £20 for a 30-minute interview and demeaning both themselves and the rest of us at the same time. If not, the likes of International Medical Research would surely have upped their fees by now; profitable companies tend to respond to market forces.

But they've learned well the lesson from the insurance industry; if you pay nuts, you'll get monkeys, and if you pay peanuts, you'll get GPs.

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.

Email him at

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