Published: 10/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5946 Page 34

Our lives are controlled by laws. Every group in the NHS has its own - known only to that particular tribe.

General practice is littered with laws.

All GPs know that the nicest patients have the worst illnesses and frequently those who complain the most are those you did the most for. All clinicians should remember the first law of local anaesthetics - 'never say oops'.

And we all know the administrative law that the legibility of any copy is inversely proportional to its importance and the law of committees that states that 'any simple problem can be made insoluble if enough meetings are held to discuss it'.

As we expand NHS premises at a startling rate we need to remember the law of house design that states 'every house has one room too few'. This will surely apply just as certainly to private finance initiative hospitals, foundation trusts and primary care centres as it did to my once state-of-the-art and now full-to-capacity health centre.

Over the past three years as chair of the Royal College of GPs, I also learnt another important law of medical politics: 'Clinicians do not have a monopoly on altruism.' Almost everyone who reads HSJ cares about the future of the NHS. When we disagree, it usually is because we are approaching this truth from different viewpoints.

And so when we get into disagreements, we need to remember why this is. We all recognise the truth from different perspectives, which is why it has become so liberating to learn to use the patient's perspective - the only one that really matters.

Dr David Haslam is the immediate past chair of the Royal College of GPs.