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In the late 1990s, medical journals went through a period of intense navel gazing. Evidence-based medicine was at its highest pitch, and conferences at BMA House started worrying about peer review. Lots of editors went along, plus a large number of hangers-on who got co-opted onto groups to look into this and that. I did well out of it all because I met Alec Logan, and the rest (as they say) is history. Which, as readers of this column will know, is a cliché — because clichés were dealt with in the 65th column of which this is the 105th and last.
Oddly (not ‘ironically’: that might be the word many would choose but readers will know that it is not irony because of columns 14 and 17), the very first regular column was about how nothing is original, how everything has already been written about.
Some topics cropped up more than others. There have been five Secretaries of State for Health. Frank Dobson moved off to be an unsuccessful candidate for Lord Mayor of London just after the column started and escaped mention. Alan Milburn got mention in 12 columns for his 4 years in post, John Reid in four for 2 years, Patricia Hewitt twice that many for her 2 years, and Alan Johnson has barely got into his stride. Blair only appeared in eight columns. If someone wants to analyse just what topics got covered and how many times, please let me know. I tried not to repeat myself too much, but some bees buzz in bonnets more insistently than others. In between the medicine and the politics and the sheer self-indulgence, I have tried to show the wonders of the English language.
In some ways it has been, with apologies to the Grateful Dead, a long strange trip. Anaesthetists, unless they do pain clinics, don't come across GPs in their daily practice. This anaesthetist has enjoyed his contact with GPs very much. My favourite column? The one about phrasal verbs (April 1999). The one I most enjoyed writing? Our conquest of Beinn Dearg (August 2005). So neither column was political or even medical.
But this sort of column is best written from the inside, and I am going outside, and I may be some time. I am retiring from the NHS, and we are going walking in the hills for as long as our joints will let us. So, Alec: Beannachd Leat, Tapadh Leat, Sealbh Math Dhuit.