Morning call: Pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

  1. Carney has a chance to kick-start the weak British economy (Financial Times)
    The BoE must spend some of its monetary policy credibility in search of a more robust recovery, writes Chris Giles.
  2. The potential prize from fracking is huge (Telegraph)
    There is bound to be some disruption, but shale gas could cut energy bills and fuel economic recovery, writes Michael Fallon.
  3. Happy birthday, national minimum wage (Financial Times)
    A sign that lasting popular institutions can still be built, writes John McDermott.
  4. The BBC should let its journalists have views (Times)
    It is ironic that the Corporation’s Trust has censured a right-of-centre viewpoint, writes Robin Lustig
  5. I don't want sympathy in life, I want dignity in death (Guardian)
    "Still the British courts won't permit assisted suicide in extreme situations such as mine. Well I'm not giving up the fight yet," writes Paul Lamb.
  6. Bradley Manning is no traitor but he must still go to jail (Times)
    The soldier’s supporters would change their tune if it was a right-wing activist leaking anti-immigration statistics, writes David Aaronovitch
  7. The Grace Dent Guide to Happiness (Independent)
    "I truly hope David Cameron is not developing policy around the deranged chunterings of anyone who found their happiness levels altered by the Diamond Jubilee," Dent writes.
  8. Once, the Tories understood rural Britain. Not any more (Guardian)
    The anti-fracking protest in Balcombe is just the tip of the iceberg. All over Britain, a new countryside rebellion is brewing, writes John Harris.
  9. Lewisham hospital will stay open - but only the lawyers have true cause to celebrate (Independent)
    The NHS's survival depends on the closure of services and even whole hospitals, writes Jeremy Laurance.
  10. Globalisation has a darker side – and it’s a challenge to us all (Telegraph)
    When things go wrong, nation states and their taxpayers will have to pick up the pieces, writes Iain Martin

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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She knew every trick to get a home visit – but this time I had come prepared

 Having been conned into another couple of fruitless house calls, I now parry the proffered symptoms and generally get to the heart of the matter on the phone.

I first came across Verenice a couple of years ago when I was on duty at the out-of-hours service.

“I’m a diabetic,” she told me, “and I’m feeling really poorly.” She detailed a litany of symptoms. I said I’d be round straight away.

What sounded worrying on the phone proved very different in Verenice’s smoke-fugged sitting room. She was comfortable and chatty, she had no fever or sign of illness, and her blood sugar was well controlled. In fact, she looked remarkably well. As I tried to draw the visit to a close, she began to regale me with complaints about her own GP: how he neglected her needs, dismissed her symptoms, refused to take her calls.

It sounded unlikely, but I listened sympathetically and with an open mind. Bit by bit, other professionals were brought into the frame: persecutory social workers, vindictive housing officers, corrupt policemen, and a particularly odious psychiatrist who’d had her locked up in hospital for months and had recently discharged her to live in this new, hateful bungalow.

By the time she had told me about her sit-in at the local newspaper’s offices – to try to force reporters to cover her story – and described her attempts to get arrested so that she could go to court and tell a judge about the whole saga, it was clear Verenice wasn’t interacting with the world in quite the same way as the rest of us.

It’s a delicate path to tread, extricating oneself from such a situation. The mental health issues could safely be left to her usual daytime team to follow up, so my task was to get out of the door without further inflaming the perceptions of neglect and maltreatment. It didn’t go too well to start with. Her voice got louder and louder: was I, too, going to do nothing to help? Couldn’t I see she was really ill? I’d be sorry when she didn’t wake up the next morning.

What worked fantastically was asking her what she actually wanted me to do. Her first stab – to get her rehoused to her old area as an emergency that evening – was so beyond the plausible that even she seemed able to accept my protestations of impotence. When I asked her again, suddenly all the heat went out of her voice. She said she didn’t think she had any food; could I get her something to eat? A swift check revealed a fridge and cupboards stocked with the basics. I gave her some menu suggestions, but drew the line at preparing the meal myself. By then, she seemed meekly willing to allow me to go.

We’ve had many out-of-hours conversations since. For all her strangeness, she is wily, and knows the medical gambits to play in order to trigger a home visit. Having been conned into another couple of fruitless house calls, I now parry the proffered symptoms and generally get to the heart of the matter on the phone. It usually revolves around food. Could I bring some bread and milk? She’s got no phone credit left; could I call the Chinese and order her a home delivery?

She came up on the screen again recently. I rang, and she spoke of excruciating ear pain, discharge and fever. I sighed, accepting defeat: with that story I’d no choice but to go round. Acting on an inkling, though, I popped to the drug cupboard first.

Predictably enough, when I arrived at Verenice’s I found her smiling away and puffing on a Benson, with a normal temperature, pristine ears and perfect blood glucose.

“Well,” I said, “whatever’s causing your ear to hurt is a medical mystery. Take some paracetamol and I’m sure it’ll be fine in the morning.”

There was a flash of triumph in her eyes. “Ah, but doctor, I haven’t got any. Could you –”

Before she could finish, I produced a pack of paracetamol from my pocket and dropped it on her lap. She looked at me with surprise and admiration. She may have suckered me round again, but I’d managed to second-guess her. I was back out of the door in under five minutes. A score-draw. 

Phil Whitaker is a GP and an award-winning author. His fifth novel, “Sister Sebastian’s Library”, will be published by Salt in September

This article first appeared in the 23 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain