'Fit for purpose' - an extract from Never Do Harm

Alan was late joining Hugh at The Tickled Trout for a pint. His friend was already employing his best bedside manner with the Eastern European bar tender, a pale skinned, fair haired student of medicine in her own country.

‘Give the man a pint of your best, will you Anna? And later you can pick his brains about being a GP in Scotland. Best job in the world, eh Alan?’

‘Oh yes. Especially on the days when a locum is seeing your patients!’

The two made for the corner table, away from the speakers giving out some slightly out-of-tune rendition of the original out-of-tune ‘Wonderwall’.

‘Well?’

‘Well what?’ replied Alan.

‘Well, did the Ethics committee approve my research proposal or not?’

‘What about “nice to see you Alan. And how are things with you?” Or are you rushing out the door and haven’t time to chat?’

‘Sorry. I trust you’re well, my old friend, on this lovely summer evening?’

‘Yes, Hugh, I’m fine and no, you were knocked back this time, dear friend, Chairperson and esteemed top consultant. You’ll get approval next time if you do what’s suggested.’

‘You are kidding? Aren’t you?’

‘Nope. You’ll get the official letter soon I’d expect. Anyway, I don’t suppose it’s your own research project. You’ll just have put your name to it to get the funding. That’s how it works doesn’t it? And of course the famous Hugh Scott will be first author on any papers you produce, regardless of who actually does the hard work.’

Hugh was momentarily speechless. ‘No, that’s not always how it works, Alan. I take a keen interest in my students and trainees. And I’m on hand to keep them right and give them encouragement where and when they need it. Nothing goes out with my name on it that I haven’t given the once-over. So - which prat put the kybosh on it then?

‘There were a few of us who had concerns if you must know. Older Asian women in this city often still don’t speak good English. You might be seeing the daughters in your clinic when they have a miscarriage. They’re born and bred here, talk with Edinburgh accents, maybe wear jeans and skimpy tops. But many of the older mothers still wear the shalwar kameez or sari and bring their husbands or children along to translate when they come to the surgery. So it was a fair point.’

As the light dawned in his mind, Hugh leaned in to make his point. ‘And I suppose you were the one who gave the GP perspective, given that it’s your territory? In fact you were probably the one who swayed the others, weren’t you?’

‘Heavens above Hugh. It’s not the end of the world. Make the changes and it’ll go through. No big deal, is it?’

‘Put yourself in my position, Alan. The Chair of the Committee. And I fail to get approval for my proposal. How does that look?’

‘You know your trouble? Your ego is too big. You think the world revolves around you. We’re protecting patients here, not enhancing research profiles or furthering careers.’

‘That’s rich – from someone who’s looking for any way out of dealing with patients. And if I remember rightly, it was your ego that got in the way when you fell out with old McPherson all those years ago. If you’d just grovelled like everyone else you’d have got that SR post and become a surgeon instead of a second rate GP.’

‘Fuck off Hugh. I’m going home.’ Alan grabbed his coat from the chair back, threw a five pound note at Anna and made for the exit.

Hugh caught up with him, fumbling for his keys, hands shaking.

‘Alan. I was out of order. I’m sorry. It’s been a hard day and I’m disappointed in the result, that’s all. Friends?’

‘Maybe it’s not that easy, Hugh.