Charles Nevin: Doctors should try a bit of entertainment

Share

An important element of the columnist's work is the ability to take the temperature, make a diagnosis, and suggest the cure. And, since some of you might well be reading this in the surgery, I was wondering if you had noticed that the medical profession is suffering from a bout of what we journalists call "bad publicity".

That's right. Normally, I would break it more gently, but believing it to be apt to follow the profession's own custom and practice, I'm going to give it to you straight: docs, people are saying you are arrogant and greedy bastards. There's Gerry Robinson, who has been discovering infinitely condescending consultants treating the NHS in the manner I thought they reserved for their patients; and then there are the GPs, under fire from no less distinguished a source than this newspaper for their £118,000-a-year salaries and fingers-off-the-pulse weekends.

The consultants are a particularly interesting case. In the last 50 years, deference has been in retreat everywhere; it has been entirely eradicated in whole areas, starting with royalty and ending with parents, by way of teachers, politicians, police and the clergy.

Quite right, too: deference has to be earned, not bestowed by right on a generality. And yet the higher doctoring classes have remained immune. It is, I think, to do with their position as keepers of the mysteries of life and death. If it didn't sound as pompous as the non-Independent-reading ones, I'd say it was shamanic.

And then there is that continuing popular role model, gruff but golden-hearted, as displayed by the line beginning with James Robertson Justice as Sir Lancelot Spratt and currently practised by the bloke with the pipe in The Royal.

And I can see, too - and am aware from a close study of ER - that the gruff thing helps hold off the excess of sympathy and involvement that would make the job impossible. But why not have a go at pretending to be sympathetic? Surely that cannot be beyond people who sought to impress Gerry Robinson with the size of their degrees?

The GPs are different. Few of them have, or have had, the inclination or time for the pompousness. Up until now, they have been widely admired for their dedication. But that's changed since they became less accessible and 63 per cent richer. So they must change, too, or, before they can say "don't worry it's just something going round", they'll be viewed like - sit down and take a deep breath for me - lawyers.

My solution would be to follow the example of the calling where astronomical earnings seem to cause little resentment: entertainment. Provide a little extra of that, and the smiles will be back. A burst of song when the patient enters (Peggy Lee's "Fever", for instance, or, possibly, "The First Cut is the Deepest") accompanied by a touch of tap; and perhaps some conjuring tricks ("you'll never guess where I'm going to make the thermometer appear now").

Or, bearing in mind that laughter is the best medicine, a joke. An excellent ice-breaker, which might also indicate to the consultants the more subtle approach I'm advocating, involves a doctor phoning a patient: "I've got some bad news, and some very bad news. The bad news is that the lab called with your results, and you've got 24 hours to live. The very bad news is that I tried to get you yesterday".

Sheep are setting the baa higher

Congratulations to David Hempleman-Adams, 50, the intrepid Briton who has set a new world hot air balloon altitude record (6.1 miles), and to George Hood, 49, the intrepid American who has set a new world record for pedalling a stationary bicycle (85 hours).

However, to avoid any accusations of species triumphalism, I should point out that wild goats living near Lynton in Devon have now learnt to tiptoe through a cattlegrid, thus setting the baa that bit higher for the Yorkshire sheep who roll over theirs.

* In Japan, meanwhile, crows are placing walnuts on pelican crossings and returning to retrieve the now-crushed delicacies when the lights turn red again.

Not bad, particularly when you consider that two men who broke into a police station in North Carolina have just been arrested after leaving a trail of cake crumbs.

Next Monday, I note, is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, thanks to post-Christmas debt, blues and the weather.

Every Monday, I also note, is supposed to be the most depressing day of the week - most suicides, heart attacks, car breakdowns, and absentees. Stand by, then, for my 11 Reasons to be Cheerful this Fine Monday.

1. We don't have to worry about Becks's future. 2. Today is the 248th anniversary of the opening of the British Museum. 3. It's a week until next Monday. 4. It's not too hot. 5. You're not John Reid. 6. You are? Hmmm. Well, at least this isn't that briefing paper you left under the chair. 7. You can catch Finnish jazz quintet Ilmiliekki on Radio 3 tonight. 8. This year you can pay to get into the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. 9. Sir Norman Wisdom is returning to the silver screen. 10. His part is a minute long. 11. Thames Water might be about to lift the hosepipe ban. Now go, go!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

KS2 Teacher

£105 - £120 per day + Expenses: Randstad Education Maidstone: Randstad Educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The EU must take more responsibility for the migrants risking their lives to reach Italy

Benjamin Ward
The view from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh  

Scottish independence: Why I can't wait to leave London and live in a free, independent Scotland

Yannis Baboulias
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week