Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

The return of the three wise men

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:s180
  1. Nicola Sharp

“This nonsense must stop,” said Hubert.

“Martha won't do what I tell her to,” said David Millstone and he stroked his bald head.

“You're her husband. Surely you can persuade her to attend counselling and stop drinking?”

“You don't know what it's like being married to Martha.”

“Is all not well in your marriage?”

“You're lucky. You're not married to a bigot.”

“I'll have Martha if you don't want her,” said Hubert quietly.

“Sorry, what did you say?” asked David.

“Let's focus on the main issue,” said Hubert. “The wait for an elective surgical outpatient appointment is 36 weeks. Before Martha was suspended it was four weeks.”

“More targets. All you managers ever think of is targets.”

“The inpatient waiting list is nearly two years. Martha must see patients again.”

“I really think she must stop drinking first.”

“She must start clinical work immediately. I don't care about the alcohol.”

“But this is a clinical governance issue. Think about the risks.”

There was a loud knock at the door, then the door swung open and Dr Carsington wobbled into the room with Mr Sturm on one side and Dr Urmston on the other.

“How nice to see you, gentlemen. What can I do for you?” asked Hubert.

“The question is, what can we do for you?” said Dr Urmston.

“It has come to my attention that there is a problem with Miss Millstone,” said Dr Carsington.

“We know what's going on,” said Dr Urmston.

“It must stop,” said Mr Sturm.

* * *

“I'm glad you're working the bank holiday,” said Penelope.

“What's that supposed to mean?” Giles Millstone looked up from the television.

“I've had enough of you moping around the house.”

“You are the one who's pregnant with someone else's child,” said Giles.

Penelope put down a basket of wet washing. “I'm expecting your baby. I am a full time SHO with an eleven month old and a husband. I'm trying to work for my part two exam. I've not had a full night's sleep for eleven months, and I do 99% of the housework around here. When do you think I had the time for an affair?”

Giles scratched his head. “I don't know.”

“So you do believe you're the father?”

Giles fiddled with the remote control. “No, the odds are against it.”

“Who cares about probability? I know it's a miracle, but it's your child.”

“I'm going to start work full time next week.”

“But you look after Christopher on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Christopher pulled himself up, put his head on Giles's knees and said, “Dada, dada.”

“What about nursery?” asked Penelope.

“Have you arranged a full time place?”


“They were fully booked a month ago.”

“And I'm going to sleep in the spare room.”

“What? To avoid the chance of another immaculate conception?”

* * *

“We are the three wise men. We advise on these matters,” said Dr Carsington. Mr Sturm and Dr Urmston nodded their heads.

“Miss Millstone must leave the hospital immediately,” said Dr Urmston.

“She must not work, nein,” said Mr Sturm.

“I really don't think suspension will be necessary,” said David.

“She has been meddling with patients on the ward,” said Dr Carsington.

“I am the medical director,” said David.

“You are the henpecked husband,” said Mr Sturm.

“I will deal with the problem,” said David.

“Nein, nein, nein,” shouted Mr Sturm.

Dr Carsington banged his walking stick on the floor.

Hubert stood up. “Silence, all of you,” he shouted. “I am the chief executive around here. I will decide what has to be done. Will you all leave now and see some patients.”

“The guidance of the three wise men is required,” said Dr Carsington.

“This is a clinical risk,” said David.

“I have an MBA,” said Hubert. “I will make the decision. The rest of you can see some patients or follow a star. Obviously I'd prefer it if you did the former.”

* * *

“Are you sure you've got enough food there?” asked Janet.

Douglas looked up from his plate of four fried eggs, five rashers of bacon, three sausages and black pudding. “I'm comfort eating. I've been rejected.”

“You asked that new house officer out?” asked Janet. “The one with blonde hair?”


“She turned you down?” Janet smiled slightly.


“You said she did.”

The characters this week

Hubert—the chief executive, previously Martha's lover

David Millstone—a consultant psychiatrist and the medical director

Martha Millstone—David's wife, a consultant surgeon, recently returned to work from gardening leave, has an alcohol problem

Dr Carsington—a consultant obstetrician

Mr Sturm—a consultant orthopaedic surgeon

Dr Urmston—a consultant paediatrician

Giles Millstone—Martha and David's son, a GP

Penelope Millstone—Giles's wife, an SHO in medicine

Janet—an SHO in casualty, Douglas's former girlfriend

Douglas Millstone—Martha and David's son, a surgical house officer

“I said I'd been rejected. It was for a job.”

“Well there are plenty more jobs out there. It was probably good experience.”

“They didn't like me. No one likes me.”

“Never mind. You'll get a job near here. Your father will arrange it.”

* * *

“I've been under a lot of pressure,” said Hubert.

“Tough at the top, is it?” asked Martha. She rearranged her legs so that Hubert could get a good view of them.

“I've been under pressure to suspend you again.” Hubert looked at Martha's knees.

“But you're not going to,” said Martha.

“I have a proposal to put to you.” Hubert put his hairy hand on Martha's knee.

“No, I will not sleep with you,” said Martha.

“I don't mind about the drinking, I mind about the waiting lists,” said Hubert.

“Fine. I'll see some patients,” said Martha.

“It's not that straightforward,” said Hubert. “People are watching you. You must appear to stop drinking and you must attend counselling.”

“I won't talk to that Veronica Dove woman.”

“Attend your appointments, but sit in silence if you like.”

Martha didn't answer.

“Please, Martha.”


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