Dr Phil Hammond, GP, lecturer and presenter of BC2's Trust Me, I'm a Doctor

Hello Mr Pitt, what can I do for you?

Where's Dr Fanners?

He's retired, I'm afraid.

But I always see Dr Fanners.

As I said, he's no longer with us – but I've taken over his patients.

Then you should know all about me.

Yes, well from what I've gleaned, you've been down our way rather a lot. This is your 20th visit this year.

So who's counting?

Actually the computer does it. I press 'A' next to your name and it gives the number of attendances this year.

Why would you need to know that?

Well, on average, men of your age attend twice a year, so either you must be pretty sick or there's a complex web of psychosocial issues triggering your attendance.

I want some antibiotics for my cold.

Why do you think you need antibiotics?

Because I've got a cold. Are you deaf?

No, it's just that I wouldn't normally give you antibiotics for a cold.

Oh wouldn't you? Perhaps you could explain why Dr Fanners always gave me antibiotics for my colds and I always got better.

It's called association.

What?

Ninety-nine per cent of drivers involved in car accidents are wearing shoes. Does that mean that wearing shoes makes you crash the car? Would you ban shoes on the strength of it?

You've lost me completely now.

Just because something preceded something else, it doesn't mean it caused it. You would have got better from your colds just as quickly without the antibiotics.

You think you're so clever, don't you?

Well, doctors are in the top 0.1% of the academic population...

If you're so clever, perhaps you could explain why I always got antibiotics from Dr Fanners, who I presume was also in the top 0.1% of the academic population.

Not towards the end he wasn't. Dr Fanners trained in an era when antibiotics were seen as cure-alls. And despite overwhelming evidence that they don't make a jot of difference to viral infections, he preferred to stick with his beliefs. I'm not saying he was a bad doctor – but you and I know that medical science has progressed rather faster than Dr Fanners, don't we Derek?

You're really starting to annoy me.

I understand your anger Derek. You have had your faith in a pill for every ill reinforced by Dr Fanners and his idiosyncratic prescribing. But I'm saying let's challenge those beliefs; let's break free from the drug culture and give your body a chance to heal itself.

Give me the tablets or else.

Or else what?

Or else I'm not leaving this room.

Fine, but you'll have to move over – I've got to redress Mrs Acheson's ulcer.

I will if you'll give me the tablets.

Derek, I'd love to. But your cold is caused by a rhinovirus that lives inside the cells of your respiratory epithelium where antibiotics can't get to it. Prescribing would merely reinforce your doctor-dependence.

You've got about three seconds left before I punch your lights out.

Now you're just being childish. I'm trying to educate you, Derek. Antibiotics don't cure colds or flu. To get penicillin out of me, you'd need to come back with syphilis.

Well I'm glad you mentioned that. Take a look at this…

  • Dr Phil Hammond is author of the best-seller Trust Me, I'm a doctor (£9.99, phone orders 0500 418419)

Guidelines in Practice, June 1999, Volume 2
© 1999 MGP Ltd
further information | subscribe