…Christmas for GPs:  Take One Humbug and Come Back in January if it’s No Better…

Of course you know:  Christmas for GPs actually started ages ago. 

It’s not when you start hearing Slade and Wham on Radio 2 in November. 

It’s not even when Tesco starts stocking Christmas puddings in October. 

You’re miles out. 

Christmas for GPs actually starts in about April.  It’s when your eye drifts down the annual leave wall-chart or spreadsheet and lands on the vast blank area at the bottom – the pristine, empty white snowscape that covers the second half of December, as yet untouched by human hand or footstep.

Your eyes flit left and right to see if any of your partners have spotted it yet.  It doesn’t look like it. 

So, you book Christmas off for yourself, right?


You don’t want to be the Grinch who steals Christmas for everyone else (yet again) so this is where the great seasonal game of chicken begins. 

It’s like a poker game… does a straight flush of primary school-age children beat a pair of elderly parents?  Can you assume everyone remembers who has the trump card of working Christmas and New Year last time, or do you try to bluff? 

Let’s assume this game is won or lost with good grace, because all too soon the only truly validated patient-satisfaction survey begins.  The days of buying a present for your GP are passing, but slowly and steadily the senior partner’s in-tray begins to fill with enough sherry to sink a medium sized aircraft carrier.  The official “lovely” female partner is trying to negotiate a landslide of her own weight in chocolates and “smellies”. 

And meanwhile, you get a card from your most bonkers patient promising you another year of despair, gritted teeth and receding hairline.

By the way, if you’re not sure which category you fall into, it’s either because a) you’re too sozzled on Harvey’s Bristol Cream to care or b) because you can’t see your in-tray for all the Ferrero Rocher and body shop bottles that seem to be covering your desk. 

If neither of the above apply: enjoy your card.

Christmas Eve morning is a sticky one.

Probably from all the snotty kids with poor hand hygiene.

Under normal circumstances we would be fighting the good fight and trying to avoid prescribing pointless antibiotics for little Tarquin and Jacinda who blatantly just have colds.

You’d have thought that after 24 million cases and 200 thousand deaths from Brer Covid, people would have stopped using the term “just a virus.” 

But no. 

Mummy requires, nay demands antibiotics because she knows it’s a chest infection/scarlet fever/ strep throat and therefore requests the special magic antibiotics that work in 24 hours for viruses because it’s the run up to Christmas.

This is an error for three reasons.

  1. Antibiotics are more likely to give kids diarrhoea or sickness than shorten the duration of most infections.
  2. Those special magic antibiotics don’t exist.
  3. Actually, they do.  But don’t tell anyone, because we secretly keep those for ourselves.

Christmas Eve lunchtime.  We’re getting there now.  Just the staff party to go.  No – not the turkey dinner, party hat and Shania Twain marathon at the local hotel or golf club.  I mean the one in the practice where those of us who were too late or too disorganized to book the day off grab a mince pie, a cup of co-op orange juice and some crisps off a paper plate in reception.

It is now that the senior partner publicly ambushes you with a bottle of something fizzy and expensive, too late for you to reciprocate, so the best you can do is sneakily change the label on one of his own bottles of sherry from “To Dr Savage with best wishes from Edna” to “From Rick” and hope he doesn’t notice*.

*Note – feel free to use your own name but I find Rick works best for me.

Finally things should quieten down – it’s Christmas Eve afternoon and the inverse care law** is cruelly applied.  If a couple of you have booked Christmas Eve off, the entire practice population of eight thousand will require emergency appointments, with the exception of those in residential homes who will require emergency visits.  If you all stay late, it will be as quiet as the grave and you’ll end up fighting over the only prescription request just for something to do. 

**Basically, those who need the most help get the least and vice versa

I find the best technique is to turn off all the lights and stay below the window line playing Hungry Hippos and Ker-plunk like it’s the last day of term, then slamming shut and bolting the doors the second the Integrated Care Board phones go off at 6:30 and there’s no-one to tell me off.

And then, dear colleagues, my brothers and sisters, for two blissful days your time is your own to spend as you see fit with family, friends and loved ones.

Unless, that is, you’re working a co-op shift in which case the stuff and humbug is kept in the locked cupboard behind the bottle of scotch.

Merry Christmas!

Spot the difference competition: last year’s Christmas turkey vs my daughter wearing her anorak upside down

One thought on “…Christmas for GPs:  Take One Humbug and Come Back in January if it’s No Better…

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