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PETE was out of pain pills – he needed a repeat prescription. This little wrinkle of bureaucracy is essential to prevent the terminally stupid from loading up on medication that they no longer need, or which is no longer appropriate, but it is not a difficult task.

The locum, whose first language originated further east than Spain, searched his computer. ‘He has no prescription for them.’ He announced. ‘He has to have patches.’

‘No, the patches disagree with him. The doctor changed them for the pills.’

‘He has no prescription for pills. If he wants pills he must see his GP, Ernesto.’

‘But Ernesto is on holiday. He can’t wait a fortnight for his pills.’

‘Then he must have the patches.’

At the risk of repeating myself I said ‘The patches disagree with him.’

‘I don’t have the authority to prescribe new pills, only repeat existing prescriptions.’

We went round this particular circle a couple of times more, both of us speaking in a language that was not our native tongue, with ‘You don’t understand, listen to me’ being countered by me insisting that I did understand, and I was listening.

We were at risk of becoming enmeshed in circular conversation until the cows came home or Ernesto returned from holiday, whichever came sooner. The easy way was plainly not going to work so I performed a tactical retreat, re-grouped my beleaguered brain cells and formulated a new angle of attack.

Would I succeed, or perish in the attempt? I’ll tell you next week!

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