Articles in newspapers and magazines often give advice on how to get the best out of your doctor. The idea is to maximize the benefits of a consultation and to relieve pressure on the NHS at the same time.
But where’s the fun in that?
With a little planning, you could properly annoy your doctor instead. Here’s my advice based on decades working in the NHS, together with one or two favourite tips from my fictional GP colleague Geoff, the doctor in Hampstead Fever.
I like to think these are steps almost anyone can take.
1 Prepare for your appointment by not showering or washing for two weeks. Don’t wash your clothes or change your underwear either. With clean clothes, you’re just not playing the game.
2 Bring a list. It should include all the symptoms you’ve had in the last five years. Aim for about 20 or so different complaints.
3 if you don’t have enough symptoms of your own, bring the family. A babe in arms, a couple of hyperactive toddlers, and a deaf granny should do the trick.
4 Kick off the consultation with, “This won’t take a minute, doc.” Which is true. It will take an hour.
5 To help your doctor’s diagnostic skills, offer a couple of well-chosen newspaper cuttings or internet printouts. You know the kind of story: Vaccines Kill Millions, or New Miracle Cancer Drug. On no account must you allow your GP to dissuade you. After all, Dr Google is so much better than a living breathing doctor with actual qualifications.
6 When the baby’s nappy needs changing, leave the soiled one behind in the doctor’s bin. This ploy is a good one for the summer months.
7 It’s only polite to take your chewing gum out before saying, “Aah.” Leave it in a tidy blob on the GP’s desk.
8 Exhibit your verrucas, ingrown toenails, chilblains, or bunions at every consultation (what do you mean, you don’t have any?). Before you put your sock back on, it’s de rigueur to get it the right way round by shaking it vigorously at your GP.
9 Don’t ask for an antibiotic for your cold. Demand one. You know your rights. If necessary, remind your doctor that you pay his or her wages.
10 Save your best symptom till last, and mention it only when you’re about to leave. Thus, hand on the doorknob, you can say, “While I’m here, doc…”
With a bit of practice, you should be able to piss your doctor off without even trying.
For the really perverse who actually want to get the best from their doctor, here’s my advice, along with some wisdom from fellow GP Mark Porter in The Times.