Dr Phil Hammond, GP and broadcaster

It’s a tough old job being a GP. Nobody wants to be a partner any more. Across the country, training scheme places lie empty while 50-something cynics rush to retire early. So whose fault is it? Politicians, the new contract, the media, the pollen count. You name it, we’ve blamed it.

But in the scramble to point the finger, we’ve missed the true villain: nursery rhymes. An extraordinary number are themed on the misuse of doctors. For example:
Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick
So she called for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick

Miss Polly didn’t even try phoning NHS Direct first. And if you think that’s bad enough, try this:
There were five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Called in the doctor and the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed

In my version they call in the doctor and the doctor says “If you bloody monkeys phone me up again, you’re off the list!”

This, alas, is a counting rhyme so there are five verses which a) show the monkeys completely disregarding their previous doctor’s orders and b) reinforce the hideous ‘GPs are vets’ message. A friend of mine was called out to help hunt for a lost tortoise, another to help round up some loose horses. And now I know where the seed for these inappropriate night visits was sown. I was so unimpressed, I rewrote the whole rhyme:

There were four little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
So they took him straight to casualty
And the casualty officer said: “This is a minor bump. It’s the kind of thing your GP should be dealing with. So don’t bother us with your rubbish.”

There were three little monkeys jumping on the bed
Because they’re risk-taking males and they’ve got these learned patterns of behaviour
And – would you believe it? – one falls off and bumps his head
What do they do now?
They look at the clock and it’s a quarter past midnight
The last night bus has gone and they can’t drive because they’re monkeys, obviously
So they call up the out-of-hours centre, swear at the nurse and demand a GP visit

Now as luck would have it, he’s on a visit in a neighbouring tower block trying to retrieve somebody’s hamster
“I wouldn’t normally come,” says the GP, “But as I’m down your way I’ll pop along.”
The monkeys wait and wait but the GP never arrives, because he’s been mugged on the way and beaten unconscious. Eventually, the monkeys panic and carry the third little monkey up to casualty. And the casualty officer says, “This monkey has a severe head injury. You shouldn’t have waited for the GP – you should have brought him straight up.”

But they’re too late. The third little monkey dies. And the other little monkeys are crying in casualty when they spot a big neon sign from the local solicitor: “Do you want to sue a doctor?”
“Yes,” they say. “We’re going to sue our GP for failing to visit.”
But the GP’s been off sick with depression since his mugging. When he finally gets back to work, there’s a writ there from the little monkeys’ solicitor. And it tips him over the edge and he’s dragged away by men in white coats

Two little monkeys and a lawyer jumping on the bed
Trying to figure out how to get money out of Dr Bloggs

One little monkey jumping on the floor. He had to sell the bed to pay the lawyer

Happy Christmas.

Guidelines in Practice, December 2004, Volume 7(12)
© 2004 MGP Ltd
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