Another Disgraceful Incident Involving Vernon Coleman

Vernon Coleman

Wikipedia editors have been scouring the internet for exciting incidents from my long forgotten past which they can use in their attempt to discredit me.

Here is one they seem to have missed.

In the distant days when I was a GP, family doctors did a lot of home visits. And inevitably the calls occasionally came at inconvenient moments. Quite a few came through while I was conducting a morning or evening surgery.

Sometimes patients were happy to wait until the surgery had finished. But on other occasions they needed a visit immediately. I always used to ask: `Do you want me to visit now or can you wait until the surgery has finished?í Simple.

On one occasion, I remember receiving a call from a woman who thought her husband was having a heart attack. She wanted me to go immediately. I told the receptionists that I would have to leave the surgery, left apologies for the patients in the waiting room and hurried off to the patientís home.

It was about 5.30 pm and naturally the roads were busy with people going home from work. I turned on my hazard flashers so that people could see me coming and drove as fast as I could. I was, I remember, driving a bright orange Saab 99 at the time. It had, I seem to remember, a turbo model with a fine turn of speed.

The patient wasnít having a heart attack. I stayed a few minutes, soothed him and his wife, prescribed whatever was appropriate (I canít remember what it was) and drove back to the consulting rooms to finish the evening surgery.

I didnít think any more of it until a day or so later when I received a telephone call from the secretary to a local Chief Superintendent was who was something significant in the local police station. His name, I remember, was Fretwell and I think he may have been in charge of traffic policemen. His secretary wanted me to go along to the local police station. Apparently, the policeman had been one of the cars I had passed while driving to my patient. Maybe he had tried to catch me but had failed. He had taken my car number and traced me to the surgery.

I didnít see why I should go along to the police station so I didnít go.

And a few days later I received a summons for driving with my hazard flashers on.

I had to go to court and the Medical Defence Union sent a high powered lawyer up from London to defend me.

In the end I was fined £5 for driving with my hazards flashers switched on. That was it. My driving licence remained unblemished. It was, apparently, illegal to drive a moving motor car with the flashers flashing. I was told that only bus drivers can drive with their flashers going and only then when they have been hijacked and need to attract the attention of the constabulary.

The story hit most of the national newspapers and one reporter asked me why I thought the policeman wanted me to go along to the police station.

I said I assumed that he wanted to tell me off.

And at this point things got very silly.

One of the papers reported that I had said that the policeman had wanted to browbeat me into making an apology.

I had never said any such thing but that, apparently, was no defence when the Chief Superintendent sued me for libel.

At that point the whole story got very silly.

A very eminent barrister in London said he would have loved to have the policeman in the witness box but sensibly suggested that the case really wasnít worth the effort. I ended up paying £200 in damages for the comment I hadnít made, and agreeing to the printing of a small apology in the local newspaper. Heaven knows what the legal costs came to. Mine were paid by the Medical Defence Union and the policemanís were, I think, paid by some sort of police body.

So, there is another story about me that Wikipedia could use. Iím sure they could get a few juicy paragraphs out of it.

It happened in the late 1970s or the early 1980s so a couple of weeks digging through newspaper and court reports would doubtless prove immensely fruitful.

Copyright Vernon Coleman May 10th 2020

While I was a GP I wrote three books about a GP. I wrote them under the name Edward Vernon. The titles were Practice Makes Perfect, Practise What You Preach and Getting into Practice. Nearly fifty years later they are, Iím pleased to say, still hugely popular.