HOW DO I ACTUALLY GET TO SEE YOU ??
I have just seen the headline in my daily newspaper "Millions can't get to see their GP". This appears to be the damaging side effect of the government aim that patients should be able to see their doctor within 48 hours, and if Practices keep within this government target they qualify for a cash reward.
So, this explanation solves the mystery of my own frustrating experience of trying to book a doctor's appointment prior to my holiday. There were no appointments available, but when I requested an appointment for any available time on my return, I was informed that it was not possible to book ahead. I was told that patients had to telephone on the day at 8.30 am and appointments were allocated on a 'first come, first served' policy. This was followed by a word of warning –
'be sure to ring at 8.30 am as the appointments go very quickly'. And, no, funnily enough, it was possible to make an appointment at this slack time in the afternoon, it was only possible to telephone at the busy time when the surgery opened in the morning. The only thing I felt sure about was (a) at 8.30 am the phone line would be permanently engaged (b) by the time I got through all the appointments would be gone and (3) my blood pressure was already on the rise. No wonder so many people have stress related health problems. (I'll tell you I'm joking when I ask you 'Can you see the day when the current major problem of patients left on trolleys in hospital corridors will seem a minor problem of the past as we are told to' take up thy bed and walk 'as we camp out overnight at the doctor's surgery to be there at opening time in order to grab that' first come, first served 'appointment', but …?)
Now, whilst we wouldn't want to go back to the 'no appointment' system of the l950 / 60's when we called in at the doctor's surgery on our way home at 6 pm after a hard day's work and were still waiting there at 8.30 pm surrounded by coughing and wheezing patients, steamed-up windows, which you daren't open because of the smog outside. You went in with a troublesome back and came out with a troublesome cough. I would also hazard a guess that those crowded stuffy waiting rooms were responsible for passing on many germs and viruses. Obviously, we wouldn't want to return to those days, but on the plus side at least we saw the great man himself.
So who do we blame for the collapse of the NHS service which was once the envy of the world? I think the blame can be equally divided between the patient and the provider. You may be surprised to hear of any blame being attached to the patient.
The National Health Service was set up so that no one would have to forego medical care because of their inability to pay. It was a wonderful idea and wonderful service but now, of course, our NHS is certainly not the envy of the world and, unfortunately, we often have to go to other parts of the world, (often to parts where people once envied us) in order to get the treatment we need. Unfortunately, because it was a free service (and rightly so) it has gradually over the years been abused and over used. Not, may I add, over used by patients who really need the service. They are often pushed to one side and doctors' valuable time taken by patients who think they have a fashionable illness of the moment. (I believe doctors had quite a run on possible toenail fungus following the recent intensive advertising campaign on TV). Also, when we visit a doctor we feel that his advice must be backed up with some magical prescription. In fact, some doctors automatically reach for their prescription pad before you have hardly had time to relate your problem. Also it's worth remembering that so many of our ongoing problems are the result of the side effects of well-meaning prescriptions. And, more to the point, do we actually need to see a doctor at all? It's amazing how many young people go to the doctor 'to get something for their bad dose of flu', so that they'll be fit for 'clubbing' at the weekend. In fact, what they don't seem to realise is that if they really had flu they would be in bed and unable to make it to the doctor. What they are really bothering the doctor with is a bad cold which he is unable to do much about anyway, and they have probably passed it on to another patient in the waiting room who, unfortunately, because of age or illness already has a low immunity to viruses.
Looking back to our own childhood, did we ever go to the doctor with a sore throat, etc.? I am sure your memories are similar to mine. The majority of treatment came from within the family circle – gargle for sore throat, damaged limbs were bathed and bandaged, liniment was rubbed into sprained ankles, etc. As a prevention measure, my friends all wore liberty bodices (remember them?) Under their winter woollies to protect them from the elements. (Nowadays, of course, the young dispense with woollies in winter and just wear a fashion garment that resembles the liberty bodice and the fashion statement is not complete unless there is an exposed area of flesh below it. Brrr! Brrr!) I was always envious of my friend's liberty bodice as I was not allowed one. In fact, I was always made to feel that illness was not merely a sign of body weakness but more a sign of character weakness and that a good dose of fresh air would keep any illness at bay. Our village doctor (or Sir as I was instructed to call him on my one and only visit
to his empty surgery) must have had a peaceful country existence. As a small child
I really believed that if I saw the doctor's car outside a neighbor's house
(I knew it was the doctor visiting because he was the only person who actually owned a car) then that poor neighbor was at death's door. (In fact, they usually were). Some would call these the bad old days when the poor couldn't afford the necessary health care, but on the plus side I can't remember any child suffering from asthma, allergies, etc. Perhaps all the fresh air, exercise, home-gown produce and, by today's standards, often unhygienic surroundings, built in some kind of immunity to germs.
NOW COMING TO MY MAIN GRIPE! THE SERVICE WAS SET UP TO PROVIDE FREE HEALTH CARE FOR THE PATIENT, BUT THE PROVIDERS OF THE SERVICE HAVE PUT THE EMPHASIS ON THE ADMIN SIDE AND BY DOING SO ARE WASTING A COLOSSAL AMOUNT OF THE MONEY WHICH SHOULD BE SPENT ON PATIENT CARE.
Here is my own experience at visiting a specialist when I lived abroad. (1) The necessary x-ray was taken, he discussed the x-ray with me and made a decision there and then in the one visit. Here, in order to fit in with the admin side – (1) after waiting weeks to see a specialist, you are then informed that an x-ray is necessary, (2) more admin necessary whilst you wait weeks for the appointment, ( 3) You travel to the x-ray dept and afterwards told to telephone for the results in a fortnight's time, (4) you telephone, more chasing up and possibly more admin as you are asked to make another appointment (5) more traveling and yet more stress as possibly the original x-ray has been mislaid when you eventually get to the appointment. Just think how many people are employed to weave their way through all this admin and the further stress and exhaustion caused to the poor patient. There is unnecessary admin even at the level of visiting the doctor. I'll give you one example.
On a visit to my doctor I was informed that I needed my blood pressure taken. I was told to (1) make an appointment with the nurse on my way out of the surgery. (2) This involved queuing at the reception desk in order to make the appointment, (3) the receptionist perusing her computer in order to find a vacancy, (4) writing out the appointment card, and (5) my having to travel by car the following week to the surgery, (6) engaging the receptionist once again, and (7) wasting part of my day waiting in the surgery WHEN IN THE TIME THE DOCTOR USED FOR INFORMING ME THAT I NEEDED A BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK, HE COULD HAVE CHECKED IT AND SO SAVED ALL THAT WASTED TIME, ADMIN AND MONEY. I know you will all have similar stories that you are dying to get off your chest. I DO WISH THE 'POWERS THAT BE' WOULD LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER – THE PATIENTS.
So, now that we are just around the corner from winter winds and ailments, let us aim to keep out of doctors' surgeries.
WHO DO YOU THINK IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR HEALTH? – THE GOVERNMENT? THE DOCTOR? NO, YOU ARE! Y 0 U ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOU – YOUR HEALTH. SO LET'S TRY AND DO SOMETHING IN ORDER TO TAKE CARE OF OUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT.