After nearly a week of mild flu, a nasty cold and feeling like my head is full of cotton wool, I awoke the other day to find that one side of my face was completely blocked, including my ear. As there wasn’t any pain involved, I decided to leave it for a few days before going to the doctors, assuming that the blockage was due to congestion and pressure from being ill. However, when it hadn’t gone away yesterday, I rang my doctors to book an appointment.
I love the NHS. It’s an absolutely wonderful service and when I or my friends and family have had to go into hospital we have been treated with care and compassion by underpaid staff who still manage to give a smile despite working ridiculously long hours and receiving lots of abuse in return for their efforts.
However, I can’t say the same about my local surgery. There have been a number occasions where I have needed treatment in the last ten years and I have had to wait for days and sometimes weeks to get appointments, been rudely spoken to by apathetic doctors and staff, and in many cases have had to insist on receiving antibiotics for things like urinary tract infections. Of course, I have no medical training and don’t assume that I know better, but when tests have shown that blood is in my urine, I know that it needs something to clear it up. My resident GP is less than sympathetic, often sitting back in his chair and using Google to find out what he should do. Seriously. His response to a kidney infection a few years ago? A set of yoga classes for my back pain, that could only be scheduled on Monday afternoons during the time I would be at work. Despite this, I’ve stayed with them for nearly ten years because they’re close to where I live, the only other one available being quite a distance away.
It all came to a head at the beginning of last year when I was hospitalised for nearly a week with a massive kidney infection and a virus. It was serious – they originally thought that it was meningitis and then pneumonia – and I’ve never felt so ill in my life. After I was discharged, I was told that I had to have follow up blood tests at my doctors to ensure that everything had fully recovered, and so I had to battle to get an appointment with the nurse when I got home. She did the tests, and a week later I received a phone call to say that I would have to come in again and have the tests redone because ‘my blood had clotted’ and they were unable to use the sample I had been given. The next available appointment? A week later. I went in again, and the following week the same thing happened – this time they blamed the hospital for the fact that my sample was unable to be used – and asked me to make another appointment, stating that they could ‘fit me in’ at some point in the next week.
I’m never usually one to complain or lose my temper, but by this point I was angry. I’d been really ill, I had been forced to move house at the same time due to an unfortunate experience with a charlatan landlord, my beloved cat had just died and I was having a really rough time, and I asked to speak to the Practise Manager. I knew why the samples weren’t able to be used – instead of storing them properly, the nurse had simply written my name on the side of the tube and put it in a Tupperware box near the window – but the manager wasn’t having any of it. We exchanged a number of angry words, and that was it. No follow up, no tests, nothing.
However, as yesterday was an emergency, I decided to grit my teeth and ring them for an appointment. I was told to come to the surgery at 2.00pm to get my appointment, only to be told when I arrived that no appointments would be available until 4.30pm. When I gave them my details, they couldn’t find me on the computer system, eventually telling me that I had been de-registered. Their excuse? They had sent a letter which I hadn’t replied to, so they assumed I had moved away. It eventually transpired that they hadn’t got my new address on the system, despite obviously being given it because of the blood tests I’d had the previous year – I wouldn’t have been able to make the appointments without it. I pointed this out, adding that I’ve had the same phone number for the last ten years and they could have rang me at any time, but this was dismissed. I was then asked to fill out all my paperwork again, which I did, and then I was told that instead of being able to have an appointment for the afternoon I would have to have an introductory check-up on Monday before the doctor could check my ear. Unbelievably, one of the doctors was standing next to me in reception when they were telling me this, and when I explained that I had a half-marathon on Sunday she told me to go to a walk-in centre on the other side of the city if I wanted it to be checked.
I just burst into tears – I’ve been feeling crap all week – and told them to forget it. So, instead of going to work today I’ve had to ring them and tell them that I can’t come in, which has cost me money, and I’m going to have to go to the walk-in centre instead. It’s blatantly obvious that the Practice Manager has deleted me from the system because she was angry…
May their crotches be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels, and may their arms be too short to scratch.
What about you guys? Have you had any stressful healthcare experiences?
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