Stick to the script and you won't go far wrong

So Christmas is well gone by now and good riddance, especially to The 12 Days of Christmas.

Everybody knows the words, everybody gets one line to sing, everyone can count down from 12 to one, should be simple.

But there is always some joker who can't remember his one line, or who appears taken by surprise that 'seven swans a-swimming' follows immediately after 'eight maids a-milking', or who insists in singing his line in what he clearly thinks is a hilariously funny voice.

Just do the bloody thing right, I feel like shouting. Stick to the script and the whole awful thing will be over and we can go back to drinking gin until we fall over.

Sticking to the script has many applications in general practice. Let's face it, the patient knows what they want, they know we know what they want and vice-versa. So rather than stumbling through a series of pointless and time-consuming inanities, I have written a dialogue, a kind of protocol for patients (it's time they shared the pain).

I'll admit here to having some experience in writing medical scripts; if you stick to the two basic rules (1) make it as unrealistic as possible and (2) plenty of sex, you won't be far wrong.

For example: 'Nurse, I don't care if we've shocked him 247 times and there's more cardiac activity in the Irish construction industry, I ain't giving up on this kid; by the way, you have gorgeous breasts.'

It goes something like this:

'And how are you today?' I begin.

'I've not been well,' Joe replies, as per script. 'My back's giving me gip, bugger it, I forget the next bit.'

'What about an X-ray?' I prompt gently.

'Oh yeah, I remember now: What about an X-ray?' frowning with concentration, enunciating the words carefully.

I nod approvingly.

'You're a natural,' I whisper encouragingly. 'What you need is a few weeks' rest,' I say.

'I don't like missing work,' says Joe, more confident now, embellishing the phrase with a snigger, what's known as artistic license.

I hand him the sick cert. Then, for a bit of devilment, I go off-script: 'I'll see you in two weeks.'

'I'd hoped for four weeks,' he said, disconcerted.

'Always leave 'em begging for more,' I say.

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