‘Doctor, before you go, I have one last problem if you don’t mind. It’s rather embarrassing and I don’t really like to mention it.’
I smiled at Molly, a pleasant octogenarian lady, and gently persuaded her to continue.
‘Well, it’s my piles,’ she said with a slight grimace. ‘They’ve been ever so troublesome recently. I managed to find some of that cream you gave me a few years ago, but it stings something awful. It never used to; I think it must have gone out of date.’
I picked up a tube from her bedside table and Molly confirmed that it was what she had been using.
‘Yes, Molly, it is rather out of date. I’ll prescribe you a new tube which will be fine.’
As I reached for a prescription pad, I put the tube of a well known brand of spearmint toothpaste in my bag for later disposal. I hadn’t the heart to tell her the truth!
(First published in GP Magazine, 6th January 2006. The name of the patient has been changed.)