Thursday, 15 May 2014

Timing

Frank Sinatra, David Gower and Michael Macintyre. It's all in the timing.

So when a patent tells me that she was phoned at 8.30pm one Friday evening to be told that her scan was abnormal, I despair. The scanning department had taken it upon themselves to ring her and advise that in view of a suspicious abnormality, they would like to book her for a further, more sophisticated scan.

Friday evening? Surely just a moment's thought would have prevented them making the call then. For many people (but of course far from all) it is wind down time towards the weekend. And the weekend  is not a good time to anxiously wait and worry. Of course no interval is good between news of abnormality and more definitive confirmation one way or the other. But it's just the thoughtlessness of it all. Sadly one outcome of the 24 hour Tesco-ization of society is the failure to realise that such things as significant accidents are more likely when society just runs and runs with no natural rthythm of work and rest (see The 24 hour society- the risks and challenges of a world that never stops). And perhaps more subtly,  this ever expanding working day or week, can make us insensitive to others whose 'moment' in the day or week may well be different from ours.

Timing is vital for the doctor. How often have I thought I knew the answer to a patient's presenting problem within seconds, only to be proved wrong as I have resisted the temptation to interrupt and let the patient finish. And even when my instinct was correct, it's nearly always best to wait. Reassurance given too early in a consultation seldom helps. I'm not sure that timing in sport is learnt or innate, but in medicine it has been be learnt through long practice and close human observation.

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