Well, it’s a nightmare. It’s a battle. It’s hit and miss. It’s a protracted and exhausting procedure that I’m sure puts most people off bothering.
Today I suddenly broke and realised I can’t continue living the way I am – every day in pain and agony from my hip, back, knees, and head. Something isn’t right. I can’t cope with the pain any more. And why do I have all this pain anyway? What is WRONG with my hip, my back, my knees..? And why do I get a headache every single day and migraines most day? Why do I wake up every morning with a splitting headache? I honestly can’t take it any more. it’s making me a bad mother and a miserable human being. I need to make a doctor’s appointment.
BUT… Gone are the days when you simply pick up your phone, call the surgery, and book an appointment. Gone are the days when you can go online, select a day and time from the list, and make an appointment. No, no. You can’t do anything as simply or easily any more. Why? I do not know. Perhaps it’s because they’re using the coronavirus pandemic (that isn’t a pandemic in the UK now) as a continual EXCUSE to keep patients away so doctors can have an easy working day, but if so, this is a stupid strategy long term. We are all so ill and suffering, and we’re only getting worse and worse alone at home, making our injuries or diseases more complex and harder to treat every day that slips by that we don’t have any medical attention.
But back to my story. Having decided I need to see a doctor to find out what on earth is wrong with me, I went straight to my GP surgery’s website where I discovered that unfortunately I can’t do anything today or tomorrow because it’s the weekend and, naturally, the doctor’s are closed. You can’t phone, text, email, or fill out a form – they are shut, closed, offline. This is extremely inconvenient.
Meanwhile I’m resigned to the fact that, even on a weekday, I won’t be able to see a doctor face-to-face because… Coronavirus Excuse, so Monday (in two days’ time) is the earliest I’ll be able to fill out the electronic consultation form. I will hope against hope that the vicious triaging guard dogs allow the form to be seen by a doctor, and then hope that a doctor, any old doctor (I never see the same one twice) replies and sends me an email to say that I have permission to phone to book an appointment with him or her, by phone. It definitely won’t be a face-to-face appointment straight away because Coronavirus Excuse. I will then get on my knees my knees and pray that the appointment they make for me isn’t scheduled too far ahead in the future (and not at a time when I’m already doing something important – because I get no say at all about when my appointment will be. If you don’t accept the one they offer you, you get the feeling that there won’t be another one and you’re made to feel utterly ungrateful). It could be up to two weeks away. When I finally do get that precious telephone appointment, which will obviously be without any eye contact or body language or any physical examination, I will have to ensure I convince the doctor about how much pain I’m in every day, and how I can’t go on, and desperately need help. (Why does it have to be that I’m absolutely desperate before I seek help?) After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Most likely they’ll offer pain killers but no exploration as to what’s causing the problem. If I’m extremely, incredibly lucky, I may manage to somehow convince him or her to allow me to come into the surgery and sit down opposite them and have an actual real, life face-to-face appointment. This would be like some kind of miracle, a similar feeling to winning the lottery. If they examine me, they will be shocked at how much I’m suffering and FINALLY, I might actually get some help – hopefully a referral to a specialist. But in reality, a face-to-face appointment with a doctor is extremely unlikely.
This is what it’s like these days in the NHS. No exaggeration. It’s easier to get a hairdresser’s appointment, your nails done, a virgin media technician or even a plumber to come to your house. Massive problems are being stored up for the future and patients will be dying in their thousands because doctors – the first port of call for us ill and suffering people – are trying their best to keep us away as long as possible.
I’m usually proud of the UK and England, but right now I’m losing that. The GP service is not fit for purpose. The NHS is failing its people. God help you (me?) if it’s cancer.