GPs and appointment times

September 1, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

McGovern

 

By

Hazel Speed

Consider this scenario…

Our bodies, as yet, are not aware they must only become unwell Monday to Friday 9-5 or even more restricted hours and give us written on line notice 5 weeks ahead of the symptom(s) if there is a hope of getting an appointment before one of us dies, or perhaps, no that would be a sick joke – excuse the pun.

One can be forgiven for wondering where the annual medical assessment has gone. The days when going through a list of symptoms can be accommodated and items ticked off.

The equivalent assessment of MOT re bodywork (or not work) and then the engine also has to be appraised for tuning.

This also presupposes one can get through on the telephone to make an appointment in the first place.

We envisage hundreds of elderly and sick people poised over the telephone dialling pad waiting for 8am in order to try and get through to the receptionist and thereby secure an appointment with the doctor. Our preferred GP may have a 2 month waiting list so by then your original symptom will either be replaced by another one, or worse.

The alternative is to make a mad dash to the surgery and register then wait with a number in hand to be seen by any duty doctor that day. Similar to the deli counter at the supermarket except this time ‘you’ are the meat!

The irony is, one has to be well enough to do that at the crack of dawn, especially in the winter.

Some may dip a proverbial toe in the online water until enquiries are missed then perhaps others find a new website managing software system requires patients to sign away so many medical rights that they stop using online links and revert to old fashioned methods of communication, pistols at dawn with ‘good cop/bad cop’ receptionists.

There are waiting rooms which have notices advising patients to speak positively when chatting thus causing everyone to stare at the cameras in the room after reading the same, followed by mutterings of “oo-er” or  “*** !”

Actually, quite often patients can diagnose each other in discussion and if only we were all able to listen in to some of the GP/patient conversations then in true style of Ice Skating Judges, the rest of us in the waiting rooms could hold up voting cards such as 8 out of 10  for understanding, 8 out of 10 for knowledge or 0 out of 10 for lack thereof as by now the rest of us already know what the patient has.

There are also the issues of age, circumstances and choice in the world of medicine regarding the interaction with patients via the internet. Not everyone has the ability, finances or aptitude to contact the surgery online. One cannot expect a frail elderly person to adopt IT systems, or the very ill of any age who also cannot afford a computer and again what about patients with cognitive disabilities. When a person is really feeling unwell it is quite an effort to cope with computer systems and the service provider may have technical problems whilst you simultaneously throw up in a bucket!

On one occasion when I myself was very ill apparently I got through to my lovely GP and said “don’t doctors visit people anymore,” but I passed out and eventually called for an ambulance. When I returned from spending a week in hospital there was a lovely note from my doctor worrying about me and asking me to get in touch upon my return home as she had just missed the ambulance (a point confirmed by my neighbour).

Eventually I recalled the statement to my GP and apologised – we both laughed when I explained I thought it best to cut to the chase and assume you couldn’t visit. I know she would if required and when I rang originally, that was the first time I had called. I said she was a good doctor and she is.

We are led to believe that soon there will be a webcam link to the home but I think that would have limted benefits. More importantly we hear of modern science exploring automatic monitoring of blood pressure, heart beats, sugar levels which are sent to GP surgeries and/or hospitals which would indeed help but there will always be the need for personal appointments as monitoring machines will not be applicable for the human factor in us all.

I consider myself fortunate in having an excellent intuitive and sensible Doctor but often we choose a Doctor by their expertise over one issue and comments by fellow patients such as ‘he or she is good dealing with broken limbs but the other one is best to see regarding heart issues, then another is expert for diabetic treatments’. As we may assess character in others, our views regarding doctors are fairly instant, to be honest, we achieve that between 10-12 minutes.

That is really not enough for doctor/patient confidence to grow. The doctor may miss a vital comment the patient is, or isn’t making regarding their symptoms.

What about the seriousness of other patients suffering from domestic abuse, going through a divorce or various other life changing events?

Then there is the rule of one subject each appointment which is stupid. The working relationship between GP and patient, once confidence is established enables both parties to update on existing conditions and any worrying matters in such a proficient way back and forth thus achieving in medical terms the equivalent of an appointment with a Specialist and at the end of the day, whether the appointment is 10 or 12 minutes, the GP really is (or should be) one’s Specialist.

An ounce of common sense discussion makes a patient feel better which negates a prescription and/or hospital visit so in the end a longer chat with a doctor will indeed save money and a healthier patient will often emerge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hazel Speed

Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine

Hazel Speed is a Philosopher, Writer, and Artist with various creative projects at differing states of development. Her flaship project is an animation which has produced a film short: www.thepinkprofessor.com.

Art sites: www.candystoreart.comwww.terrificart.comwww.artbadges.co.uk.

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