Bedside manner fails to impress doctors on call

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The Independent Online
They do not feature in any medical text book, but every GP is familiar with them: the bizarre calls made in the small hours of the morning by patients who view their family doctor like the local pizza delivery man.

Despite efforts by medical organisations to deter trivial calls, patients persist in phoning their GP for advice ranging from the mundane to the highly personal, according to a survey.

One 82-year-old woman called up Dr Thomas Abraham of Hull at dawn one morning complaining she had been awake since 4.30am seized with "an irresistible desire for sex". Wisely refusing to leave the security of his own bed, Dr Abraham offered her advice over the phone. He declined to visit "for reasons of personal safety."

Dr Timothy Woodman, from Gillingham, Kent, was called by a woman at 3am who wanted him to remove her sleeping daughter's contact lenses. He, too, declined to leave his bed.

A Birmingham GP told of being called on a Sunday evening for help with a crossword on the grounds that the answer was "a medical word", and another in Grays Thurrock, Essex, declined to visit a patient complaining of "excess wind".

The survey, by the medical magazine Pulse, also records the case of a woman who walked from her home in Hornchurch, Essex, to her GP's surgery - only to ask for a home visit as her phone was broken.

A British Medical Association spokeswoman said out-of-hours calls to GPs had risen fivefold over the past 20 years.