Rummage at hand


In which NHS Blithering’s medical director continues to push the paperless envelope of innovation. Could David Rummage’s voice-driven app spell the end of general practice as we know it?

“Go on, Plackard. Ask it anything you like.”

“Anything?” asked Plackard, suspiciously.

Dr David Rummage shoved his Samsung Galaxy into Plackard’s well-manicured hand.

“Almost anything. Tell it you’ve got a cough and a sniffle,“ Rummage urged.

Plackard cleared his throat.

“Don’t do that, you’ll confuse it,” Rummage said.

Plackard coughed.

“Damn it, Plackard, just speak normally,” Rummage said.

Martin Plackard, head of disruptive communications at the Blithering STP, spoke slowly into the phone, holding it three inches from his mouth.

“I have a cough and sniffle,” he said.

After a moment, an electronic voice spoke back: “You may have a cold,” it said.

“There, isn’t that incredible, Plackard?”

Rummage looked pleased with himself.

Plackard sniffed. The machine piped up again. “I don’t know that one. Try asking me something else,” it said.

“You’ve just got to talk, don’t make other noises,” said Rummage.

“I can’t help having hay fever,” Plackard protested.

Rummage snatched the phone back. “Trouble with people like you, Plackard, is that you lack imagination. You have the future in your hand and you just can’t see it.”

That afternoon…

That afternoon, Rummage presented his AI-based app, GP to Go, to the board of NHS Blithering CCG.

He handed out cards with questions on them. The members of the board dutifully read them out. Liz Wanhope’s headache was “probably nothing to worry about”, interim finance director Derek Last was prescribed antidepressants for chronic anxiety, and Sir Trevor Longstay was told to apply an ice-pack to the affected area.

“Obviously those are simple examples,” said Rummage, as a frowning Sir Trevor googled the symptoms of chlamydia, “but in recent trials we’ve shown that this thing can do 90% of what a GP can do, at a fraction of the cost and without all the arse-aching about workload, paperwork and pay.”

Several non-execs queried Rummage’s claim that the app could diagnose 98% of conditions with “better than 100% accuracy”, but he was able to reassure them by pointing out that his claims were totally evidence based and that he was a doctor and they weren’t.  “Plus it’s been peer reviewed by a leading firm of venture capitalists,” he added.

The news that he had been invited onto The One Show for a televised clinical trial with Alex and Matt dispelled any remaining doubt.


“That went well, David,” said Plackard after the meeting had broken up and the non-execs were being helped to their cars. “It’s great that Sir Trevor wants to become an investor.”

“Watch this, Plackard,” said Rummage.

He fired up the app. “What’s a conflict of interest?” he asked.

“I don’t know that one. Try asking me something else,” the electronic voice replied.

“Brilliant,” said Plackard, clearly impressed.

“I told you it was good,” said Rummage.

Technology editor: Julian Patterson


Reproduced at by kind permission of Julian Patterson.