Now, don’t get me wrong, here. Since birth, I have been on the receiving end of the NHS services, for about 23 years (I’m 25). I’ve seen so many doctors and specialists for this and that. I am currently seeing consultants for my diabetes and my IBS. I’ve been under a lot of different departments, from the baby care unit for 3 weeks when I was born, to the ENT, orthodontic, endoscopy, a&e numerous times, fracture clinic. I feel like the list is endless! I’ve also been under Great Ormond Street, Middlesex Hospital.
I am fortunate to never have needed emergency help, as such. My issues have all been ongoing, and relatively mild, compared to what some people have to go through. I am not seriously ill, I just have things wrong with me, that I don’t want. Such as my diabetes. Such as my supposed irritable bowel syndrome. However, these are things that are not life-threatening, and for the most part, don’t stop me from doing too much that I want to.
The NHS was introduced in 1948 and since it’s launch, has become the world largest public funded health service. The NHS was born out of a belief that health care should be available for all, regardless of wealth. For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists are brought together under one umbrella organisation to provide services that are free for all at the point of delivery.
Without a doubt, the NHS is a luxury. It is a luxury that many people forget they have, and believe is a right. To those people, I would ask to think about the state of healthcare services across the rest of the world. If someone in the family needed a course of antibiotics, tomorrow, do you know how much money you would be charged? How about if you needed an x-ray, MRI scan or blood tests. Without the NHS on hand, these tests would cost hundreds of pounds. An MRI scan for example, would set the patient back £200. Could you afford that, tomorrow? No? Good job we have the NHS!
There are a lot of good things about the NHS. Reassurance that you will be seen by a professional, and you will receive the necessary investigations and medication, to resolve your problems. Give a moment to think about the individuals that make the NHS possible. The nurses and doctors who work around the clock, attending to the sick. The paramedics who don’t know what they’re going to have to face, on a day to day basis.
Hopefully, I’ve acknowledged the great work of individuals working within the NHS. Now, I come to the point of this blog post. My two causes of frustration with the NHS. Waiting times and lack of communication.
I sometimes feel like my GP surgery is trying their best to annoy me, and to make sure I don’t get the service I am asking for. Of course, I’m not the only one who has to race to get through to the receptionist at 8am on the morning that I want an appointment. Not a minute sooner, as I’ll be put through to the Emergency GP Service at my local hospital. Not a minute later, because all the slots will have gone by then. I might add ‘obtaining a doctor’s appointment’ to my CV, it really is a skill, these days!
I’m annoyed further more, when I’m told I’m not allowed to make appointments for later in that week. If I want to see a doctor, but it’s not an emergency, I will have to wait at least 10 days. I can’t even begin to apprehend how annoying this is. Even more annoying, is a ‘thing’ my local surgery is trialling at the moment; I phoned up a couple of weeks ago, asking for an appointment later that evening. No can do. I was told to call back at 3pm. Do the receptionists not realise that some people work in jobs in which it’s not OK to make personal calls during the day, or they’re just too busy to take time out?!
Part of the reason why I’m writing this post, is because I still haven’t been able to get an appointment to have my flu jab. Every time I try to make an appointment, I get given an appointment between 12-1pm. This is despite me telling the receptionists that I work 8.30-5pm every day! I did think I had made a breakthrough last week. The nurse overheard me ‘discussing’ (to put it lightly) with the receptionist about time slots for the flu jab. The nurse made life sound so easy, as she told me to just ‘pop in’ after work on Tuesday (yesterday), as it wouldn’t take a minute! Success!
Fast forward to yesterday (back to the future?!) at 5pm. Driving to the GP surgery, I was instantly annoyed by what I saw..no lights on, and the gate to the car park locked. Excellent. Having as much trouble as I have had with this surgery, this was not going to help my stress levels. I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, when I read the note on the door. ‘This surgery will be shut from 1pm today, for a time to learn session’. Two issues have occurred here. Why was I told to go to the GP surgery, when they knew it would be shut? Second, they have these sessions on a regular basis, so why can they not give the receptionists all the training required, when they initially start thieir job? That way, they can be fully trained, and ready to do their job. This is what happens in any other job, yes?
Oh, and I still haven’t had my flu jab. It doesn’t look like I’ll be getting it this week, either. I have to have a blood test tonight, and the GP surgery shuts at 1pm every Thursday (not sure why!) and I believe I am busy after work on Friday. Well done, NHS Receptionists!
Lack of communication
This is a big one, and I can tell you stories from as far back as 2010. There could have been earlier times of miss-communication, but to be honest, my parents always came with me to appointments, so they made sure they said their bit for me!
Looking back to 2010, I was under the ENT, due to my decline in hearing. I had glue-ear when I was a young girl, and have had 2 sets of gromits. This eventually got better, and so I was discharged from the hospital. Fast forward to 2010 and I am having hearing tests and am seeing a consultant. As far as the consultant is concerned, there is nothing wrong with me, and I have to simply live with my poor hearing. End of. Move on.
Except, I couldn’t move on. I couldn’t move on, because a few weeks later, I was sent a letter for a scan, as requested by my ENT consultant. Hm. He didn’t mention that, I know I didn’t misheard anything, as mum was in my appointment with me!
I had the scan, but I was fuming. I’d spent the week prior to the scan, working myself up into a fit of anxiety. The worst thing was, no one could tell me anything. Thankfully, the scan showed nothing abnormal. However, it annoyed me so so much, that the consultant had told me that there was nothing to be done, I was fine, and that was that. It could have been the case that he’d requested a scan, thinking it’s better to be safe than sorry. However, it would have been nice, if someone had informed me of this decision. That would at least have stopped me worrying quite so much!
As you may have already picked up, I am constantly in a battle with the receptionists at my GP surgery. However, this summer, I reached breaking point. For the past two and a half years, I have been in agony with stomach pains. I’ve been to a&e twice. I’ve been told I have IBS, gall stones, constipation, and even that the pains have been caused by my diabetes. I’ve lost track of what else I’ve been told could be wrong!
In June this year, through Benenden Healthcare, I had a gastroscopy. Not the nicest things I’ve ever been through, and not something I want to have ever again. What’s more frustrating, is that the investigation didn’t show anything. Taking me back to square one. The consultant did however, suggest I have further investigations, under the NHS. Yay. Within a week, I received a copy of the letter that had been sent to my GP. Having spoken to my GP surgery, I knew that I’d have to wait up to 6 weeks. No big deal, as long as I get seen eventually. I’m just impressed with how quickly my GP was sent a letter from Benenden!
By the end of August, I still hadn’t received any letters, or appointments for further investigation. Take a few breaths, I’m sure all is in hand. It is in fact, the opposite of ‘in hand’. The reason why I have no appointment, is because no referral letter was ever sent to the hospital. I later found out that this was due to my GP apparently not knowing who to refer me to. I think it is this my point that my blood begins to boil. How can a GP say that? After weeks of pestering, he sent a letter to the Endoscopy department at my local hospital, for an endoscopy. As he was supposed to have done 3 months ago. Arghhh.
I think my next point is still loosely related to communication – patient confidentiality. When I initially complained to my GP surgery, I wrote a letter of complaint, telling them I was going to make a formal complaint, if things didn’t happen quickly. Three days later, when I went to the GP surgery, to speak to the practice manager, I was sneakily ushered into see my GP. This would have been fine, as I was at least speaking to someone. However, it was not fine, as my GP was mid way through an appointment with another patient. I find this incredibly disrespectful to the person he was supposed to be seeing, and disrespectful toward me. I don’t want other people knowing the in’s and out’s of my health! Made worse, was the fact that my GP was trying to explain the endoscopy procedure to me, in front of two young children.
I think maybe I’m just unlucky, when it comes to communication with the NHS, and getting the results I’m looking for. I know there are a lot of people who struggle to get appointments to see doctors, and many people suffer for longer than necessary. However, I have had some excellent care from the NHS. My diabetes care team are stars, especially my DSN, Jacqui. I love how much effort she goes to, to make my life with diabetes, that bit easier.
I just wish the NHS could pull itself together, so that we can be proud of this unique service!