The conflict between imperial and metric reached new heights this week as a man believed by his GP surgery to be 6.2cm tall was invited to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Diminutive Liam Thorp – or should we say Liam Thumb? – was surprised to receive a text from the NHS saying he was next up for immunisation because the 32-year-old Liverpool Echo political editor considered himself to be in rude health – if a little "on the chunky side".
The problem was that due to his supposed stature, Thorp had a body mass index (BMI) of 28,000. A BMI of 40 is enough to be classed "morbidly obese" so you can imagine that the UK's health service was concerned. The heaviest person ever weighed in at 635kg/1,400lb/100st and only had a BMI of 186.
Writing for his home publication, Thorp said he was surprised by the invitation because he was aware that truly vulnerable groups had priority in the vaccination rollout, and not all had been inoculated yet.
However, he "was under the impression that when offered a vaccine you should always accept" so he booked an appointment.
After some soul-searching, he had second thoughts and rang his GP to check if there had been a mistake. He was told he had been "placed into Group 6 of the priority list" because of his weight.
The penny must have dropped among the back-office gremlins at the NHS because he received a call back on Wednesday, explaining that his details "had been put into the system incorrectly" when he registered with the GP a year earlier and that he would not be offered a vaccine at this stage. His subsequent tweet about the error went viral blew up.
So I’m not getting a vaccine next week - was feeling weird about why I’d been selected ahead of others so rang GP to check. Turns out they had my height as 6.2cm rather than 6 ft 2, giving me a BMI of 28,000 😂— Liam Thorp 💙 (@LiamThorpECHO) February 17, 2021
Yes, it's all very silly, but as a "diligent, tiny, morbidly obese journalist" Thorp started probing the local Clinical Commissioning Group to ask about the consequences of mistakes in medical records.
Dr Fiona Lemmens, chair of Liverpool CCG, told him: "I can see the funny side of this story but also recognise there is an important issue for us to address. There are millions of GP appointments taking place every day and while we take care to make sure records are accurate occasional data errors do occur.
"We are grateful to Liam for his honesty and for alerting his GP practice when he received his vaccination invitation. We would encourage anyone who has received a text invitation that they think they are not eligible for at this stage, to contact their GP practice to clarify. This will help ensure that more vulnerable people get vaccinated first."