Thursday 13th February 1992   Morning coffee break 12:10

“You’ve had another complaint, Desmond.”
“What is it this time, Andrea? We seem to be getting more and more complaints.”
“Don’t worry! It’s just a minor complaint. A written apology should do the trick.”
“What’s a minor complaint, Dr Dennis?” Dilys looked very worried.
“I suppose a minor complaint is where the patient is annoyed but the doctor hasn’t really done anything wrong. Can you think of an example Andrea?”
“Dr Dennis was rude.”
“Yes . . . that usually means that I gave a very clear and unambiguous explanation of the facts.”
“Dr Dennis didn’t listen.” Andrea suggested helpfully.
“Here students, the patient is unhappy that I only addressed 3 out of 5 problems in 15 of the allotted 10 minutes.”
Dylan and Dilys looked confused by this.
“Dr Dennis was running 30 minutes late and did not apologise.”
“Fair enough! I was probably drinking tea and catching up with the news between patients. I should have apologised.”
“Dr Dennis wouldn’t give me an antibiotic.”
“That’s a common one.” My Dad said.
“It’s not as if you would try to make the patient worse by not treating them!” Dilys sounded exasperated.
“Not, usually. It depends, to a certain extent, on the particular patient. If you ask me,” my Dad continued, “for most of these minor complaints, it should be the doctor complaining about the patient.”
“Can doctors complain about patients, Dr Dennis?”
“No, I am afraid not, Dilys.” My Dad laughed.

“What about serious complaints, Dr Dennis?” Dylan enquired.
“Serious complaints are another kettle of fish, completely, Dylan.” My Dad looked at Andrea.
She took a deep breath. “A serious complaint usually means that the doctor has made a mistake with the diagnosis. Sometimes, he has got it completely wrong. Obviously, just like anyone else, doctors are always making mistakes. If Dr Dennis makes a mistake, he doesn’t want to think about it. He would prefer to forget it. If someone complains, he has to go over the whole thing again, two or three times. He has to discuss it with his colleagues which is really embarrassing. He has to apologise to the patient if they have survived or the family if not. We all hate serious complaints.

Dylan and Dilys did not come back after lunch.

You’ve had another complaint, Desmond.