The patient looked up at the pharmacist. “Your assistant said you wanted to talk to me about the prescriptions I’m collecting?”
“Nothing to worry about,” replied the pharmacist. “We just need to ask you a few questions.” An assistant was beckoned from behind the counter. “Please take this patient to consultation room 101.”
Once inside the small, claustrophobic, brightly lit room, the patient was placed in a hard, unyielding chair. “What’s this about?” they asked nervously.
“We’ve been tasked by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and Business Services Authority, to look into exemption claims. So we need you to be honest, for your own good. We are a healthy living pharmacy; we wouldn’t want you to suffer. Or have an ‘accident’.”
“Suffer? An accident?”
“Suffer ill health or have a cardiovascular accident. Now let's see. You’ve claimed exemption from the NHS prescription charge. Income support, you say? Let me just check online…”
The pharmacist began to type into the computer. “Hmm, the Department of Health and Social Care database seems to concur that you’re receiving income support. But when I check your Facebook page, I see reference to work colleagues...?”
“No, I’m unable to work owing to my illness…”
“Alleged illness”, the pharmacist corrected. “Then there’s your summary care record. Do I have your explicit permission to view this? Obviously, to deny me permission would look highly suspicious.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Because you also brought in a request for auto-adrenaline injector pens, and NHS England requires us to establish if this is a genuine need.”
“A genuine need? But please, I have a daughter with an allergy to wasp stings and a son with a soya intolerance.”
“Really? And you expect us to just take your word for it?”
At that point, an assistant came in carrying a syringe. The patient watched, eyes wide. “Is that a truth serum?”
“No, it’s your flu jab. But if I suspect you’re holding back this could really sting, leaving you with a slightly aching arm for 24 hours!”
Quick as a flash, the patient grabbed the syringe of influenza vaccine.
“What are you doing?” cried the pharmacist.
“Stand back!” shouted the patient. “I have an egg allergy and I’m not afraid to use this – if you don’t dispense what I want! Either way, you have to give me adrenaline.”
Then, tears began to well up in his eyes. “Yes, OK, you’re right. I’m not on benefits because I’m out of work, but because I’ve spent so much money on black market adrenaline pens! You don’t understand what it’s like for parents at the school gates. Adrenaline pens are changing hands for thousands of pounds!”
The pharmacist smiled. “You have contacts at the school gates? Why didn’t you say! Since the minor ailments scheme ended, we’ve struggled to market our headlice and threadworm treatments, so maybe there’s a way for us to both achieve what we want. After all – if they insist on calling us retail pharmacists, the least we can do is live up to the name.”
A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser