"Surgical Spirit": Ten Minute Appointments

Ruth Eardley is a GP and member of Affinity partner Little Hill Church, Leicester. She writes a regular piece for her church entitled 'Surgical Spirit'. We have been given permission to reproduce them. This is her latest contribution:

'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7)

Our practice offers ten-minute appointments. Occasionally, for a repeat prescription or an ingrowing toenail, it is long enough. Most of the time, it is not.

The population is getting older and, as one patient observed, when you get older ‘bits start dropping off’. This was brought to my mind forcibly when an elderly man pulled a sheet of A4 from his pocket and cleared his throat. He had a list.

Twenty minutes later we had assessed his congestive cardiac failure (CCF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), osteoarthritis, indigestion, poor sleep and side-effects from medication. I had discussed the letter from his consultant, checked his blood results and agreed to refer him for a hearing aid. The computer was flashing - other patients were waiting: I tried to wrap up the consultation. 'Not so fast, young lady' exclaimed the man, 'you're a very difficult person to get hold of. I haven't finished yet!'

Some General Practices have tried to get around this problem by insisting on ‘only one problem per consultation’. This is clearly nonsense. Many problems are linked and many people have a heavy ‘burden of morbidity’ as we like to call it: bits are dropping off!

A similar thing happened when I visited Walsingham to see the spectacular snowdrops. I popped into the Abbey and was pleased to see a ‘letterbox’ in the wall and an invitation for visitors to place prayer requests inside. Then I saw the notice: ONLY TWO PRAYER REQUESTS PER PILGRIM, PLEASE.


Is God like this? Difficult to get an appointment with? Looking at his watch and thinking about the queue outside? Does God restrict our petitions to ‘one problem per consultation’ or ‘only two requests per pilgrim’?

‘Cast ALL your anxiety on him’. The Greek word translated ‘all’ means ‘every kind of’ or ‘the whole lot’. So cast ALL your care on him – the whole lot: big things and small things. C.S. Lewis makes a helpful point that even trivial worries should be brought to God, even if only to confess to him that we are overly concerned about something so small! ‘If one forcibly excludes them, don’t they wreck all the rest of our prayers? If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses.’ (1)


LORD, I cast my burden on you. Sustain me for the sake of your dear Son (Psalm 55:22). Thank you that your eyes are upon the righteous, and your ears are open unto their cry (Psalm 34:15). Thank you that you care for me (1 Peter 5:7).

(1) ‘Prayer: Letters to Malcolm’ by C.S. Lewis


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