Ask the Past: changing doctors

My GP, who was a fantastic doctor, retired a couple of months ago, and her patients have been shared out among the other doctors in the medical centre. I had to go to the doctor last week, and I really don't like the new one, so I want to move to a different medical centre altogether. Have you got any advice?

Well, I have bad news for you. Some people would say that what you're suggesting can't be done at all. According to The Illustrated Manners Book:

Having engaged a clergyman, a lawyer, or a physician, in any case, you are not at liberty to consult any other, except with the consent of the first. No professional man will knowingly be a party to such an interference with another's business, nor permit it with regard to his own. If you get an incompetent parson, attorney, or doctor, you cannot have another, except in consultation with him.

That seems overly harsh, though, and The Public and The Doctor has this rather less strict advice:

Even if a dismissal comes not infrequently as a very opportune relief to the doctor; it nevertheless will usually be a slur, expressing censure or resentment or at least a want of confidence. Nor will a cultured patron feel very pleasant over the task of informing the attending physician of such a resolve, especially if it be due more to fancy than good reasons. It must seem desirable that the parting should be as little disagreeable as possible. A gentlemanly explanation should be given by the patron, either personally or by telephone or by note.

If you already know what your letter to your doctor will say, then you're all set, but if not, Etiquette for Ladies, suggests the following letter:

Dear Dr B-

We are anxious to try if a change of treatment will do my - good, and have with regret to ask you to discontinue your professional visits. If you send in your account it shall be attended to.

Thanking you for the interest you have taken.

Yours faithfully,


If all of this seems too much, and you don't really want to put it out there in a letter, you can't possibly go wrong with a bouquet of sweet peas, meaning departure. Depending on the reason you're leaving, you could also include some of the following to help clarify matters (all from The Language of Flowers):

Syringa, Carolina - Disappointment

Columbine - Folly

Clotbur - Rudeness

Meadowsweet - Uselessness

Bee Ophrys - Error

I'm sure that will help

Sweet peas growing against an out of focus green background. There are several shoots going from the top to the bottom of the image, with bright pink flowers growing along them.
Departure. Photo by Eugenia Romanova

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