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Let’s leave “heartsink” behind

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 10 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6542
  1. Simon Cocksedge, general practitioner, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, Derbyshire SK23 0RH
  1. cocksedge{at}

A “holding relationship” is a less derogatory and demeaning term

“If I didn’t know his history, he would be the classic heartsink,” a prize winning essayist wrote this year.1 The word took me back more than 20 years, to weekly GP training seminars. “Heartsink” patients had just been described,2 and registrars spent entertaining hours outbidding each other for the best example of the day. Case after case was recounted, bemoaning the many failings of human nature witnessed by novice practitioners.

And yet this essay also brought back that niggling, unsettled feeling in my mind that this wasn’t the right word—and the sense that it was both derogatory and demeaning, saying more about doctors than their patients.

So I started listening for instances …

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