Being sweeter than Mary Poppins

Success, in medicine, is not always obvious, as illustrated yesterday when Mrs Cross sat down firmly and looked me squarely in the eye. ‘You won’t be able to help,’ she said. ‘Nobody can.’

'You could always try me,' I offered. She looked sour. 'Dr Bloggs understands me. I was booked in with him at 11.'

Indeed she was, but Dr Bloggs had been called to a patient who had inconsiderately seen fit to die at 10.55, so she had been offered me instead.

'Well,' I said, 'you could wait for him if you prefer.'

'I might,' she said darkly, but her bottom remained anchored to my chair, 'but I expect I'll be wasting my time.'

The spark of a challenge burst into flame, the bait was taken, I put on my helpful face. Personally I blame the bloody MRCGP video for resetting my brain; the very minute someone suggests I can't help them, I become the best thing since chips, packing more cheery bonhomie into the words, 'what can I do for you?' than Mary Poppins managed in the whole of 'A Spoonful of Sugar', even including the repeats.

Mrs Cross sighed to indicate the utter hopelessness of it, then launched a sustained attack on Dr Blogg's management of all the ailments she had ever had, and those she thought he ought to think she had.

Why was she not on a statin? Why could she not have xenical? What was the point of doctors anyway? Who was Kilroy and why was he here? (I may exaggerate but you will understand there was no real direction nor end to Mrs Cross' dissatisfaction.) I rambled with increasing desperation through NICE guidelines, the triumphs of modern medicine and the inherent difficulties of existentialism, until  she flounced out to wait for Dr Bloggs. I had been so relentlessly cheerful that my parotid glands were aching, and she had been so relentlessly sour that Mrs Leaky's MSU had turned to vinegar. Yet somehow I felt I had won.

- Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk. You can write to her at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com

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