I know the flu season has started because I have seen a ton of sniffles in the last couple of weeks. A lot of patients have come to see me knowing that they don’t have a dreadful illness that needs urgent intervention. A few people come in and say that they think they might need antibiotics, or “I didn’t want it to get any worse so I thought I’d come and see you to catch it early”. These people take a bit more time and they’re the ones I need to educate… “You dont need antibiotics, 99% of these are viral and will get better on their own. And sometimes your symptoms will get better before they get worse. Go and see the friendly pharmacist next door.” and so forth!
A lot of the time I know the diagnosis and management as we walk down the corridor before we even reach my room. I get greeted by a tired and miserable looking punter with a red nose who is clutching their kleenex. Easy! When they walk into my room I want to be seen to be a good doctor so I examine them – “let’s have a look at your throat, open wide… say aahhhhhh. Now deep breaths in and out. And let me see what your glands are up to.” Most of the time I don’t need to do this but I think there is a certain expectation that to look like a good doctor I should do it, and thus I go along with the charade. (There is of course the risk of missing something rare, but that’s a story for another day).
One common feature though that all my patients have is the phrase, “And can I please get a medical certificate, doctor? My work needs one for any time I have off”.
There are not many things worse about Australian medicine compared to the UK, but this is one of them. It just doesn’t make sense. Why does the tax payer +/- the patient have to pick up a bill for seeing the doctor, for an unnecessary visit, just because the employer wants a note? It is more sensible to have a system whereby the patient is allowed the benefit of the doubt and can self-certify minor, self-limiting illnesses as they come. I feel sorry for some of my patients because they are unwell, they just want to be in bed, yet they have to go along and plead for a note off the doctor. It’s silly!
You probably wonder why l am grumbling about this, after all, I get paid regardless and its an easy consultation for me. Well, these hundreds cough and cold consultations have exposed me to so many viruses that one of them has finally chipped away at my robust immune system and has given me that sore throat and red nose. I really don’t feel like going into work tomorrow. I would love a nice day in bed to recover. Maybe I should go and see my GP for a note??