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Want to please your GP? Don't bring a relative

DON'T take along a relative for company.

THE BEST MEDICINE: Dr John Larkin aims to offer an insight into how doctors think. Picture: Martin Shields
THE BEST MEDICINE: Dr John Larkin aims to offer an insight into how doctors think. Picture: Martin Shields

Don't try and make your own diagnosis. And don't mention the over- inflated salary.

This is the advice of a Scottish consultant who has turned years of treating patients in Glasgow into a new book on how not to annoy your doctor.

Dr John Larkin, a rheumatologist at the Victoria Infirmary who won an award for a quirky text book aimed at preparing medical students for the realities of the career ahead, has turned his attention to the waiting room instead.

How to Keep your Doctor Happy, top tips for perfect patients, has just been published by Sandstone Press.

In it, he suggests how to get the best from your consultation but also provides an insight into what doctors are thinking. He advises people to tell the truth about how much they smoke when asked, continuing: "Of course, conventional wisdom is for the doctor to multiply this answer by two to achieve something nearer the truth. You say 20, he assumes 40."

He also offers a guide to the different specialists patients may encounter in hospital: "The first thing to remember about general surgeons is that they're not very bright."

Asked if he is worried about a backlash from his colleagues, or indeed those he treats, Dr Larkin said: "If you soften it too much it stops being entertaining. I hope it is at a level that no-one will get upset about. I also slag myself off in it."

He is apparently a "jittery" patient himself, admitting he is never sure how much clothing to take off when he is going to be physically examined. His book advises: "There's no hurry. It's not worth losing buttons or tearing zips in an attempt to be instantaneously ready for a full examination, or instantaneously ready to go home. The doctor is not an irate husband coming up the garden path."

Dr Larkin, from Lanarkshire, said he hoped the book, while light-hearted, did give patients helpful information and advice. It talks through the process by which new medicines are approved in Scotland, and also explains why patients seen by two doctors may be given two different diagnoses.

He compares diagnosing a tricky case to picking the man of the match in a cup final – many candidates can be ruled out but this still leaves a couple of possibilities that could be right.

Telling people not to bring their spouse, mother, and "worst of all" their grown-up daughter into the consulting room with them is perhaps his most controversial point. Dr Larkin said his wife did not agree with his stance, nor did his GP brother.

He said: "It does make a difference to the way you take information from people and how you get their story from them.

"You sometimes get the feeling they are not telling you the story the way they would have done otherwise."

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Health

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