This letter is in sympathy for anyone out there, who, with symptoms that are a little bit scary, has tried to book an appointment with their local GP lately.
If you’re anything like me, who works themselves up into a hypochondriac state of panic and has to muster up all of their ‘you know it makes sense’ rationale to even pick up the phone to the doctor in the first place, then you will know exactly how anxiety-inducing, not to mention time-consuming and utterly frustrating it is to book an appointment with your GP at the moment.
For any doctors or surgery support staff who might be reading this – individually, you all do a fantastic job. My issue here is with the management of local surgeries (or mine in particular) and the sheer difficulty in booking an appointment.
Over the last three days, I have spent literally hours waiting on hold to get through to my surgery.
On my first attempt, I was “caller number nine” for around 20 minutes. Not wanting to give in, I held on and eventually got through around 30 minutes later.
After relaying all my symptoms to the receptionist (something I reluctantly resigned to doing some years ago as it seems to be a prerequisite of the booking process these days), I was told that all urgent appointments were gone and that the next available appointment was in three weeks unless I phoned up at exactly 8am the following day.
So, the next morning, I mustered up all my courage once again, and, while juggling my three kids, I called the surgery at 8am, joined the queue, and put my mobile on speakerphone so I could still do the school run – cunning!
Just after I dropped off my daughter and I’m about to drive to work, I get through – hurray! But alas, my joy is only temporary as I am told that the last appointment of the day has just been booked – I have missed my chance again!
And so, still fraught with anxiety from my symptoms, I decided to try again the following day (now on day three). This time, I decide to drive to the surgery itself to book in person (I am lucky that I have a car and I am mobile).
I arrived at approximately 8.15am. Unfortunately, I cannot book a face-to-face appointment anymore, it has to be a phone appointment. I am told that the doctor will call me on my mobile anytime between 12.30pm and 6.00pm – I can’t even get an approximate time.
Luckily, I have a job where I can have my phone right next to me at all times (privacy is another matter of course, and so I have already planned to leg it to the stationery cupboard to take the call when it comes through), but what about school teachers, nurses, shop workers, refuse collectors… basically anyone who is in a job where they cannot take a call straight away?
What about the elderly, vulnerable, less able, less determined of us? How do they cope with such a rigid and inflexible process?
We have the most amazing NHS and I have witnessed first-hand how smoothly it operates at the top, but why are our GP surgeries failing us by making it so hard for us to get over the first hurdle?
I do not believe that this is COVID related anymore, and fear that people might brush off serious symptoms simply because the process of trying to see a doctor is so arduous.
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