The GMC, in typically high handed fashion, yesterday dropped emails in countless retired doctors email inboxes, informing them that they have been co-opted back on the register with a license to practise, without so much as a by your leave. Many of these doctors will not have seen a patient in years if not decades, and many will be elderly. With due respect to Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller — who would no doubt have got today’s email had he not died last November — Dr No offers this update of a classic Beyond the Fringe sketch.

For non-medical readers: Section 18A in the title is the section in the Medical Act (1983) that gives the GMC the powers to do this. It is no exaggeration to say that this section, especially sub-section 18A (1) (b), which allows mass re-registration without even knowing at an individual level who is being re-registered, allows for authoritarian delinquency on a despotic scale. ROs (Responsible Officers) are the GMC’s local operatives on the ground, and Perkins is a long since retired GP foolish enough to have stayed on the Medical Register, but without a licence to practice.

RO: Perkins! Sorry to drag you away from the garden, old boy.

Perkins: That’s alright sir.

RO: War against covid-19’s not going very well, you know.

Perkins: Oh my God!

RO: Ball’s in an invisible enemy’s court. War against an invisible enemy is a psychological thing, Perkins, rather like a game of football. You know how in a game of football, ten men often play better than eleven?

Perkins: Yes, sir.

RO: Perkins, we are asking you to be that one man.

Perkins: Sir!

RO: Perkins, I want you to lay down your life.

Perkins: Yes sir.

RO: We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war. Get in the car, Perkins, pop over to St Richard’s, catch the virus, don’t come back.

Perkins: Right you are, sir.

RO: Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going too.

Perkins: Goodbye, sir – or is it – au revoir?

RO: No, Perkins.

Original sketch can be seen on youtube here.

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