Leafing through the Dr Foster Opal Fruit Hospital League Tables (South West Division 3), I was struck by their lack of usefulness. There's no juicy gossip about who to send your mum to and who not to send your dog to. For the inside track, I tell all my patients to phone Maureen on the hospital switchboard…
"Hello, the Infirmary."
"Hello. Umm, I've been referred to Mr Brylon for my periods…"
"Just putting you through."
"No, stop. I don't want to be put through. I want your opinion."
"On your periods?"
"On Mr Brylon. I've got my Patient's Charter in front of me…"
"That was the Conservatives' little joke. We don't do that any more."
"Well it says that I have a right to be referred to 'a consultant acceptable to me'."
"I know nothing at all about Mr Brylon. So how can I tell if he's acceptable?"
"Have you asked your GP?"
"He says he's a good chap and he's got the shortest waiting list. But does that mean he's very efficient and works very hard? Or is he so bad that no-one wants to see him?"
"I did overhear him in the staff canteen saying his golf handicap had gone from 5 to 15 in the last 2 years."
"Yes, but that could mean he's playing less golf because he's putting in more hours as a doctor or that he's playing the same amount and losing his hand-eye coordination."
"Well, Sheila on the salad bar said it took him five goes to master the cherry tomatoes…"
"Can't you give me anything more concrete?"
"Well, Doris in theatre doesn't reckon much to Mr Brylon's knots, but I've never heard a patient complain. In fact, Sybil in outpatients says he gets given more bottles of whisky at Christmas than all the other gynaecologists put together."
"So he's a nice man?"
"Oh yes. And very old-fashioned too."
"Well he doesn't mess about with keyhole surgery and lasers. He's very much straight down the middle and out with the lot."
"Lovely. Any other surgeons you could recommend?"
"Mr Fixit's the talk of the hospital since he appeared in The Good Doctor Guide."
"But Eileen from Medical Records reckons he forged his own recommendations."
"Still, he might be worth a shot."
"Not for you, dear, he's a knee man. Can I just ask how much schooling you've had?"
"Lesley from the library, she's got women's problems so she had a nose through the journals. And guess what?"
"According to some professor in Cambridge, you're 15 times more likely to have a hysterectomy if you've had no secondary education."
"It's debatable – but a letter in the British Medical Journal says that 'removing the wombs of low income women is often more efficient than taking the time to educate them and treat them medically'."
+But I'm already being treated medically."
"Ah, well that's your problem. Lesley says that although it's the most commonly prescribed drug for heavy periods in the UK, there's no evidence it's any more effective than a placebo."
"So what should I be taking?"
"Lesley recommends tranexamic acid if you want to hold onto your womb. Either that or go back to school."
"Or I suppose I could marry someone rich?"
"Just so long as he isn't a doctor. Poor women have much higher rates of hysterectomy than rich women except for one group…"
"The wives of doctors?"
"Yes. And the highest rate among them is for…"
"The wives of gynaecologists?"
"Precisely. Rumour has it Mr Brylon gave his wife one for her 40th birthday. Took the ovaries out as well."
"Thank you Maureen, you've been most helpful."
Dr Phil is appearing in 59 Minutes to Save the NHS at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. The second edition of Trust Me, I’m a Doctor is out in July.