Not for the first time I find it necessary to make my feelings known with regard to the mechanism for obtaining an appointment at Langley Corner surgery. I’ve heard all the platitudes before, “it works very well”, “other people like the system”, and so on. It works well for the practice, it does not work well for the patients, their employers or, frankly, any other stakeholders such as the Urgent Treatment Centre, Accident & Emergency Department, etc.
Let me give you some specifics. In February 2012 I was diagnosed with a NSCLC tumour on my right lung. By a stroke of immense good luck it was only Stage II and thus, by definition, had not metastasised. The fact is that I had been putting off visiting the surgery to check out my persistent nocturnal cough because I was too busy to have to take part in the daily gymkhana you organise each morning. This is the event where patients/clients/taxpayers are supposed to delay or cancel their journey to work so that they can be at home, able to make a tedious series of telephone calls to the surgery, the vast majority of which are greeted with an engaged signal, in a desperate attempt to be one of the lucky ones to a) get their call answered and b) the even fewer to hold the lucky Lotto ticket to get to see a doctor that day. Of course, having cancelled their trip to work, many then have to take another day off so they can subject themselves to your sordid game-playing all over again, the following day. Frankly, I consider it abusive and I have no intention of subjugating myself to this despicable practice. It was eighteen months before I could bring myself to play this silly game and if you think I’m the only one who puts it off, even when it’s potentially as serious as it was for me, you’re kidding yourselves and doing a huge disservice to the very people who pay your salaries.
You eventually commissioned a web site, one using 1990’s technology, and offered an appointment booking system there but that too has strict limitations on how one may book an appointment and we are specifically barred from making an appointment for that day or the next.
What a complete waste of money and when, on earth, will someone commission a modern day replacement, something akin to the average two-bit restaurants?
In 2005 I recall Tony Blair being questioned in front of a Question Time audience and discovering to his amazement that one couldn’t simply pick up the telephone and book a doctor’s appointment. More than ten years later there’s been absolutely no improvement. There is no commercial enterprise on the planet that would still be in business one year down the line, let alone ten, if it deigned to treat its customers in such a disrespectful and condescending manner as this. Every business or other organisation in the world manages to organise a working appointment system, I cannot conceive that it is beyond the wit of a group of clever individuals such as a medical practice to achieve the same outcome, if they only put their minds to it. It is one of the reasons why I so despise the way in which health services are delivered within the NHS. It’s the attitude that we are getting something for free, that doctors’ needs are paramount and that we, the clients, will just fall into line with whatever arcane process is made available to us. Well, I pay significantly more to the NHS than I do for my own private health insurance which, as you might imagine, has risen significantly since my two recent cancer diagnoses. I’m paying expensively for your services and then I’m paying all over again so that I don’t have to use them. I can cope with that but I refuse to be treated like some kind of beggar pleading for the very service for which I am paying through the nose.
I don’t choose to use you, you have an effectively monopoly or near monopoly, I am obliged by your trade union rules to use you. I can even cope with that, if you would simply do me the courtesy of bearing in mind the incredible competitive advantage you have been gifted rather than abusing it and me with these ridiculous procedures. So, let’s turn to this week.
On my file you hold several letters from the senior Dermatology Consultant, Dr. Susie Morris, whom I pay privately. In those letters Susie Morris documents the medications she has prescribed for my psoriasis, the ones I usually purchase privately at my own expense. Knowing that I am soon to need further supplies of Dovobet gel and knowing that my wife intended to make an appointment to see a doctor at the surgery, I asked her if she would request a prescription for this small but essential item. I don’t care if I have to pay for it but I can’t get hold of it without a prescription. My wife wasn’t able to get her appointment (and thus ended up at the Urgent Treatment Centre yesterday for four hours) but she did make a telephone request for my prescription which was accepted. Yesterday I received a text asking me to call the surgery with regard to this request, which I did. I was advised that “the doctor” had requested a face to face meeting before agreeing the prescription, despite the fact that my records show it has been prescribed by my consultant who, were there any doubt, could have been called for confirmation. All of which would have been faster, simpler and less costly for all concerned than a text, a phone call and a doctor’s appointment…… I was told to ring the next day at 8:30, I refused. I was told I couldn’t have an appointment until sometime in August. I was told I couldn’t have a telephone appointment until next Tuesday. I told the lady not to bother.
I emailed my consultant and within five minutes a prescription was winging its way to me in the post. Sure, it cost me another twenty pounds but I’d happily pay fifty to avoid being subjected to this demeaning process of yours. That said, I do resent it. I pay enormous amounts of tax to support your income, I pay again for my health insurance, I pay for my own consultants’ visits and for my medications – even though I have an exemption card as a result of my cancer. All I asked for was a wretched piece of paper and mountains had to me made out of molehills. People wonder why the NHS is so desperately short of cash, you don’t have to look very far, do you?
I am sure you are all very lovely and well-meaning people. I’m equally sure you will not appreciate the tone of this letter. I’m afraid I don’t have the time or patience to waste time on frivolous pleasantries when I’m already annoyed that I should have to waste more time writing the darn thing. Perhaps, once you’ve put your own considerations to one side you might stop and think about the nuggets of crucial information I am delivering, free of charge and recognise that there are better ways to do things, that your current ways are self-serving, disrespectful, offensive and wasteful. I just happen to be in the minority of people that will bother/dare to tell you so but I’m also the tip of an iceberg. A little business-like attention to such matters would improve your lives as well as ours. There would be less time wasted in the workplace, less burdens placed on A&E and other facilities, more money in your pockets. It’s not rocket science.
….if I get a reply I’ll update this blog….yawn….
3 thoughts on “Letter to my GP surgery…hello?”
That sounds absolutely dreadful. It adds to your problems rather then aids them
This is not unusual if my own experiences are anything to go by. The only way to get an appointment is to call the surgery after 8 am. As the official carer for my mother (84) I make fairly frequent requests on her behalf and for my father (88) who also needs appointments more often than most.
First comes the standard message, followed by a choice of pressing 1 or 2 on the telephone pad depending on whether you want to make an appointment to see the doctor or to talk to someone about your prescriptions.
Invariably there will either be a queue and I will be number 9 or 11 or on one memorable occasion only number 4 in that queue or the line will have exceeded its caller limit and I will have to ring again.
It can take, and has frequently, up to 45 minutes to actually get to speak to the receptionist who to her credit (yes, its a woman, and lovely I am sure) will try to ascertain if we really do need to see a doctor or would a telephone consultation suffice?
I have been in the surgery, waiting patiently with my mother or father, sometimes both, when people have patiently queued ten in line (from the desk to the automatic door they came in by) to ask for an appointment in person! Make no mistake, they are patiently, but firmly told they cannot make an appointment in person but must call the surgery using the telephone at 8 am the following morning. Making an appointment at the reception desk in person is not permitted!
Why is this? I suspect that they are seeking to meet some target of seeing people within 24 hours of their making an appointment, a target they meet by the simple expedient of refusing to grant an appointment except on the day the patient calls them! If that patient is lucky enough to get an appointment slot that is.
If the patient calls asking for an appointment and none are available on the day they are told that they must ring again the following day. Doubtless the surgery meets its targets.
Regarding customer satisfaction, I have never been asked to complete or even seen a form that asks for my rating. I’m not surprised.
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I could write volumes on this topic but my venom might obscure my message. Did ever see that special QT in the early days of Blair’s premiership when he faced questions on this very subject. Yes, all that time ago. He was aghast, caught off guard trying to tell us how wonderful it all was. One after the other audience members gave him their anecdotes all sounding just like this. I must write a longer piece when time permits.