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Questions and answers in the surgery

The issue she discusses is one that has long held an interest for me and the fact that I am putting pen to paper, or more specifically finger to keyboard, indicates that it continues to do so.

It should be pointed out straight away that there are two fundamental differences between myself and the good Dr Morgan.

The first is that I am male and secondly, I am approaching the end of my career in practice. In rugby terms, the ‘clock is about to turn red’ and when the ball is next out of play, I will retire gracefully.

The first point that should be made very clearly is that patients enquiring as to whether the doctor has children is not a gender-based enquiry.

I am no longer asked the question because my three wonderful children gaze down on me fondly from the large photograph I have hanging in the surgery. Currently, the conversation is about what they are doing in college, or even a slightly mischievous enquiry about pending grandchildren.

In my view, the longer one is in practice, the more reasonable it is for patients to make polite inquiries about issues such as that. With the greatest of respect to Dr Morgan, I would suggest she may see such enquiries to be veering towards intrusive for the simple reason that she is, as she says, the new doctor in an unfamiliar practice.

The other issue relates to the ability of a doctor to act as a trained professional in the appropriate manner, even if they do not have children. This is a clear statement of fact.

Patients can currently phone up a triage nurse, give her the symptoms and receive comprehensive, evidence-based advice. But there is far more going on in a consultation with your GP.

 In my view, this has less to do with what the doctor is saying, and far more to do with what the patient is hearing, and frequently these two are not the same. As the patient leaves the consultation, it has more to do with how relieved they feel, rather than the plan of action they have been given.

For me, the greatest compliment a patient can give me as they leave the room is to say ‘thanks for listening’.

Yours sincerely, 

Dr Niall O’Cleirigh,

Pearse Street Medical Centre,

Dublin 2.


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