The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Lewis Shepherd Headshot

Dying for an Appointment

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

For a while now I've been seeing a number of debates online surrounding medical care in the UK, whether its about budget cuts, the issue of privatising the NHS or a number of problems surrounding the treatment of patients, which largely concentrates on the negative aspects of care some people have received. However something I rarely see, which is something that I've experienced recently, is the complexities of trying to get an appointment with your GP.

Recently after experiencing some problems I contacted my doctor's surgery to try and book an appointment, this to me seemed like a very straightforward task that would involve a telephone call and arranging the appointment. I'd already considered the fact that I may have to wait a few days, but as usual nothing is completely straightforward.

During my telephone conversation I was told that the earliest appointment I could have was the 1 March, which would have been fine if it was a few days before. However I just happened to be ringing three weeks before the given date, which to me seemed very strange. When I enquired about getting an earlier appointment I was told that they were fully booked until then, a phrase I thought was reserved for hotels, restaurants, hairdressers and the sort. Then when I mentioned that I'd been having a pain in my chest the receptionist, in a very rude manner, told me I should go straight to the hospital before saying goodbye and hanging up.

After this happened I was in total shock. I know if you experience pains in your chest then you should go to the hospital, but as the pain had been happening for a few days I was quite sure it wasn't a heart attack, hence my delay in approaching the hospital. It's also worth noting that a few months back when my partner had experienced extreme chest pains and we went to the hospital, he was told at A&E he should have gone to his local GP first. Talk about mixed messages.

The whole situation is baffling as it would appear the GP surgery expected me to predict and schedule the days that I was ill, I know this isn't the case but given the way I was told they were fully booked this is how it felt. I was also rudely told on the phone that to get a quicker appointment I would have to ring the next morning at 8am, which tells me and anyone else who has experienced this that the GP surgery did in fact have appointments, which they could hand out instead of making countless potential patients angrily tap away at their phones the next morning in an appointment bidding war.

I have actually done this before and it took around 68 engaged phone calls in four minutes before I actually got through to a person, at which point I couldn't get an appointment until 4pm.

Now many may blame this type of treatment on budget cuts or privatisation, but for as long as I can remember it has been like this. I can even remember my own mother enduring the telephone bidding war when I was younger to try and gain an appointment for the illness that she had so inconsiderately miss-scheduled.

It is a sad state of affairs that many people who are unwell and may in fact have a more serious underlying condition have to wait weeks on end to see their GP, by which time it could be too late. You could go to the hospital where like I previously mentioned you will be told you should have seen a GP first, be made to feel like you're wasting valuable hospital time and resources only to find out that there's nothing to worry about. You also get to find this out after an eight-hour wait, which is always a lovely experience.

Sadly there's nothing that can be done, and it looks like this is going to continue if the frightful news stories about the NHS and doctor's surgeries are to be believed. However I did file a complaint with the surgery on the day that I was denied an appointment as there was no room at the inn, but as you may have guessed I'm still waiting for a reply, which I won't hold my breath for as I may not be able to get an appointment for the lack of oxygen in body whilst doing so.

Around the Web

Francis report: what went wrong with NHS leadership? - The Guardian

Francis report: culture change in the NHS will take years ...

As the Francis report highlights Mid Staffs failings we should name ...

NHS staff could be prosecuted for wilful neglect or manslaughter ...

Stafford Hospital deaths 'could be repeated' in Scotland

Cover-up culture and a political class that's rightly held in contempt