Friday, 31 October 2008

Open wide, say 'Aah'

Isn't it strange, that as we get older, we find ourselves saying with ever-increasing frequency, things like 'I remember when', or 'When I was your age/younger' and so on. My last post was a touch nostalgic, and so is this one, all about going to the doctors.
Back in the 80s when I first lived in Norfolk, we had a marvellous GP called Martin. I think I was in the minority thinking him great, the majority of the older people in the community especially, didn't like his forthright manner. He had a certain brusqueness, and could spot a time waster a mile off. He also had the endearing habit of shouting 'Next victim please!' when he was ready for the next patient. Being a Northerner, I appreciate straight talking, so he and I got on famously, and I like to think we were friends to a degree, before we both moved away and on to different things.
But in those days, and earlier ones too, the family GP knew his patients, often treating several generations of the same family, 'from cradle to grave' as they say. They often called their patients by their Christian names, and whilst some may think this is not the done thing, I happen to think it puts you at your ease.
But how different it seems to be these days, or maybe this is just where I live, and my experience of a family GP. Well, for a start they change so frequently at my local GP practice that there is no way they could know anyone from the cradle to teenage years, let alone to old age. I have a nominated female doctor, my preference, but she isn't at the surgery every day, so often I have had to 'make do' with someone else.
The appointments system is a joke, you can only book ahead so far, and that means that if a doctor sees you on Thursday, has said he wants to see you on the following Monday afternoon, you can't pre-book. You can only pre-book as far ahead as the Monday morning.. which means you have to ring the surgery at 8.15am prompt on the Monday, at which time you will be told you are number forty or something in the queue, spend fifteen minutes hanging on the end of the phone listening to some dire music, and hope that by the time it gets to your turn, said doctor's afternoon appointments are not all taken. Hardly good for the blood pressure, all this.
And now it seems we have a do-it-yourself hospital referral system. My other half was told he would need to be referred to a specialist at the local hospital, and we assumed this meant that the doctor would write to the specialist, who would then get back to us with an appointment. Oh no... my husband got several pages listing the hospitals in the area he could choose from, and the doctors, giving him a password, and instructions as to how to select the doctor of his choice and do it all online! Well, needless to say the wonders of technology weren't all they were cracked up to be, the computer locked out due to a fault on the system, which necessitated a phone call to a particular number, manned by someone who checked the appointments at the hospital with the specialiast my husband had selected. None available he said, but nothing as to whether this was in the immediate future or next year, or whenever! He informed us the hospital would be in touch... which is what would have happened the normal way, the old way this was done, so why change the system?


Calico Kate said...

I get slightly concerned about the phone consultations, being partially deaf I don't always hear well on the phone and feel that I might miss something important. But it is a slog trying to get an appointment. I don't like not being able to book for when I want to go and have to fit them into what is happening. Not always easy. And trying to get through first thing in the morning is a nightmare. Phone too early and you get NHS24 - don't get me started - Phone at what seems a reasonable time and it is engaged - no queue or bad music for us - and by the time you do get through all the appointments for that day have been taken. So my sympathies with you PFG.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Enjoyed reading this post. The GP's at our surgery are actually quite good and I am fortunate that if I ever do need a doctor I can get an appointment the same day. Obviously the population is much smaller living in the sticks but there are still many elderly people who just go to the doctors for a chat. My mum for one! She's not elderly (just 65) but the doctor seems to be her answer for everything.

Our surgery has been threatening closure recently and we have all been petitioning. The nearest surgery would be 12 miles away and that will be extremely difficult for the elderly in particular to get to. And now they are being told by the government that the procedure for collection prescriptions over the counter at the surgery may have to stop. Unbelievable. These are people making decisions who have a doctor's surgery on every corner.

CJ xx