My role


Teddy iconBEDSIDE MANORthe out-of-hours musings of a senior physician

We'll always need 'willing' volunteers


My first lecture in medical school was delivered by a professor, now sadly practising in that great surgery in the sky with no night visits, who was keen to show us novices how he worked with little or no sophisticated testing equipment presently taken for granted.  

"Diabetes mellitus simply means 'sweet water'” he told the massed ranks of future carry on doctors, "We tested for it by tasting urine to see if it was sweet or insipid” He demonstrated this by dipping his finger into two tubes and tasting them.

"This," he declared, "is the urine from diabetes mellitus while the other has diabetes insipidus”. We were all pretty impressed, not least because 99% of us had never heard of either and anyone who is devoted to medicine enough to find out the hard way did deserve some respect.

"Now, I invite a volunteer to check if I am correct”, he glared at a poor sod in the front row until his legs made involuntary movements propelling him to the front of the lecture theatre. Dutifully doing his stuff, his face passed from disgust to incredulity. "Please observe,” said the professor, "because medicine is an art not just a science and seeing rather than believing is all.” He held up his forefinger, "I dip this finger in the urine,” he then held up his middle finger, "but I taste this finger”.

Six young men were seriously ill after volunteering for a drug trial. Someone has to do it. We cannot release unknown drugs on the population until we know they are safe. Thalidomide leaves more than just a statue on the empty Trafalgar Square plinth. Yet even with human testing it went horribly wrong. Drugs have bettered our lives but it is not cost free. Six young volunteers paid that terrible price.

Doctors' hours were a killer

Patients can pay a terrible price too when doctors are overworked.

Once upon a time, your average GP had a very good bike and could be guaranteed a home visit within hours of a call from the local telephone box. Hours were laid down in a brass plate. They practiced until they dropped. Dead.

Now GPs work a 52 hour week . From a male ghetto to female dominance commonsense prevails. Do you really want your potentially meningitis child diagnosed by a work sodden work dulled GP? Perhaps a professionally trained and paid doctor makes a good idea. Not a million miles away from a similarly trained pharmacist.

All this comes at a cost and to blame the demise of the NHS on having properly trained and paid GPs makes Nye Bevin rustle in his urn.


Bedside Manor appears monthly on the MHF website.


Page created on May 2nd, 2006

Page updated on December 1st, 2009