Fuck progress, thought Geoff.
He jabbed F5 then F1 to save the consultation. Now he wondered if he should have pressed F8 instead. Or as well. As it was, it only made the previous consultation re-appear. He was running late. No surprise there. With the new patient database, it took twenty minutes to do a simple little thing like print a chest X-ray form. Back in the day, all he’d had to do was yank open a drawer, grab a form, scribble CXR, and sign it. Job done.
Bloody hell, life was easy when he first qualified, fifteen years ago, burning with zeal to make a difference. Turned out he’d been trained for a lifetime of sorting out computer problems and hordes of patients with minor symptoms.
Fuck the new database.
Fuck the commissioning group that brought it in only months after the previous change in software. And, today, fuck the entire NHS management.
He gazed at the screen. It was filled not with the patient’s medical details, but with irrelevant guff like Pt consent given, Pt address changed (which it actually hadn’t, unless you counted a new comma), and perhaps the most common entry of all, DNA for Did Not Attend. Stuff that mattered like coughing up blood lay hidden below reams of pointless entries.
A young man sat there in front of him. Unemployed, with a squat nose and tats up one arm. A sleeve, they called it. There hadn’t been a single patient without tats all morning. One very attractive patient, job in some investment firm, had a tattooed swallow below her knee. What was that going to look like when she got saggy skin and osteoarthritis? But then these days even the prime minister’s wife had a tattoo. Jesus!
Geoff asked, “What can I do for you?” You never asked patients what brought them to the health centre today, unless you wanted to hear all about the 232 bus.
Meanwhile the computer was firing a range of tasks at Geoff: check the patient’s blood pressure, calculate his risk of a heart attack in the next ten years, and get his consent to share info. It was also reminding him that, come the year 2060, said ugly git would be due his elderly health check.
The patient (whose name Geoff had instantly forgotten) had pain in the left testicle.
Might be a torsion. Uncommon in adults, but, unless treated promptly, it could lead to gangrene of the testicle.
“Right. I need to take a look,” Geoff said, pulling the paper curtains across.
As he waited for the fellow to undress, he wiped the photo on his desk with a tissue. It was Davey, aged five, at the beach. Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk. Happy days before the divorce. Before Australia.
“Ready yet?” Geoff called out, aware of how late his clinic was running.
Turned out the man was sitting fully clothed the other side of the drapes.
As patiently as possible, Geoff explained again what he needed to examine. Another three minutes passed while the man undressed. Back in Camp Bastion, every second counted. Military medicine had pushed forwards the frontiers of many specialities, like resuscitation, trauma surgery, anaesthesia, and plastic surgery. No visible impact on general practice, though.
On examination there was nothing abnormal about this patient’s tackle, apart from the pong. The heatwave did little to improve patients’ personal hygiene. Geoff peeled off his gloves and dumped them in the bin. “Hmm. All’s well there. When did you first get the pain?”
The man shrugged. “Maybe a week ago. But I ain’t got it no more, like. Not since I pulled that bird the other day.”
“Fair enough,” said Geoff, even though there was nothing fair about it. The ugly, unemployed fucker got laid just like that, while he, Geoff, had been celibate for ten months and counting.
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