You’ve planned everything perfectly. You were expecting the rush of repeat prescriptions, folk stocking up for six weeks, and not until Christmas Eve. Anyone with nous has arranged their emergency illnesses for just before the break, to give you a few days peace. Now only half an hour to go.
Miriam: “Sorry, we’ve no slots left today, you need to come back Monday, make it early, dot of 8, there’s always a queue. What? No we aren’t the one in the Daily Mail. There are loads like that. Oh, you can’t stand, let me get you a chair.”
You have the special holiday rotas in place, with no pre-books (strange how those days often seem to flow better, dealing with what comes in as it comes…). Then with only Miriam left on reception, you are just about to lock up when there’s the dreaded call:
Miriam: “Ever so sorry Dr Luke, we’ve got a couple of walk-ins, want to register, say they used to live here but they are way outside our catchment. I know I shouldn’t be doing temporary residences but the lady… I think you should see”
Dr Luke, on the way out. (quick visual diagnosis)
“Oh Lord, look at you, about to drop, you might not make it to the morning. I daren’t send you to A&E, you might not even make 4 hours. There’s no point calling an ambulance – they’re all out answering 111 calls from office party casualties. And you’re three years late for our local maternity unit.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but my daughter used to keep her pony round the back of the surgery. We didn’t count it as part of the premises when CQC inspected. That’s where we keep our maggots you see. But new NICE guidance has it that hospitals are quite dangerous for new-borns. They say the best place is a stable family home.”
“If you want to go in there the straw is still soft and not at all scratchy. I’ll call the midwife Angela, she fly straight down, you’ll hear her on the bike, singing, lovely voice. You must be famished but don’t go out, a couple of local lads run “Lunches on Legs”, do an excellent lamb stew.”
“I’m really sorry, must dash now, have to get the wife’s present on the way home. The surgery is closed tomorrow obviously, but you can stay there. Just be careful who you let in. We’ve had strangers wandering round these last few days, bearing gifts, God knows who for.”
Miriam follows them out into the star filled night. Dr Luke pulls the door to and makes his way, sensing a strange lightness, not sure whether it’s on the outside or the inside.