Me: Hi Can I have an appointment please?
Dr’s Reception: I’m sorry we don’t offer appointments now. You have to leave a contact number and a Dr will get back to you.
Me: But I am at work? Is there not a specific time so that I can find somewhere private in work to take the call?
Dr’s Reception: I’m sorry, that is all we can offer now. If you leave your name a Dr will call you back when they can.
Me: Okay… (leave name and number)
Dr: Hi, How can I help you?
Me: Explaining symptoms…
Dr: What would you like me to do?
Me: In my head thinking doesn’t the Dr have the letters after their name?
A different call, separate issue… Over 2 Hours after I left my details…
Me: Explaining symptoms…
Dr: Do you think you need to come in and be seen in person?
Me: Who is the Dr here? But saying yes I would like checked in person. (if its not too much trouble)
Dr: Can you pop in at 2pm?
Me: I’m at work, I don’t drive, I couldn’t take a whole day off work to deal with this and it will take me about an hour and 15 mins to get there?
Dr: Oh… erm… right… I don’t have any appointments after 3pm… Can you call back tomorrow?
Me: With respect, if I do that I have to go through the same process and again get told there are no late afternoon appointments? I can’t tell my work that I need a full day off work for a 10 minute appointment?
Dr: Erm, ok, let me see if there is anything with a locum first thing tomorrow… Dr: Can you come in to see a locum at 8.30am?
Me: Yes that will be fine.
This in writing might not seem much but it is a scenario that is regularly complained about in the local newspapers, by local councillors and ‘people in the know’ and more importantly, the patients, but constuctively nothing has been progressed about it in any way.
My last joy of this system was with a Dr who asked me a question and midway through me trying to answer, would interrupt and ask another quickfire question and then another. It was like being on the phone to a call centre person who is trying to get through as many calls as they can. There is no patient empathy, no feeling of patient care. Its quickfire, its lacking in procedure and is a danger. A GP practice should not be run as a call centre.
My GP Practice now offers no appointments and hasn’t done since last year. You now have to call them, leave your name and a contact number and a Dr will call you back, and if they deem it necessary, they will give you an appointment for the same day. This can range, from my own personal experience, to anything between 1 and 4 hours. If you are at the end of the list you will struggle to get seen the same day. There are no, next day appointments, you call on the day you want to be seen. Well actually, its the day they say you will be seen.
Now for some, this may not be any great issue. Even for those who work it may not be a great issue. Not everyone is a standard 9-5 nowadays, people work flexible hours, work shifts, work part-time so this scenario may not cause a great issue for them.
Me personally, while I can work flexible hours, I also work full time. I can’t just turn round to my boss and say I need to go in 30 mins to get to my Dr’s appointment. There are business needs. Even if I do manage to take the call at work, I work in an open plan office, I can’t sit at my desk and speak about my symptoms. I can’t just walk away from my desk and right away find somewhere private, it may be a few minutes and depending on the GP, they may not be patient enough to wait. So what happens? The GP Practice, and the NHS who manage the practice do not care about this, they have implemented this system and that’s it. There is no flexibility to offer an appoint for the next day and that means you can at least give your work 24 hours notice.
Another practice in East Lothian tried this phone call system and got rid of it after numerous complaints by patients.
Staffing wise, my GP Practice are pretty much back up to normal, its time to get rid of this phone first appointment same day system – it doesn’t work for the average working person, it causes someone who is unwell more stress when worrying about how they can get to the appointment if they are at work. Just because someone is seeking an appointment doesn’t mean they are off work.
This system makes the patient feel they are a burden, feel that they are being a nuisance by trying to get an appointment when they are worried about feeling unwell.
Managers will see the practice as running well, no notices of 180 appointments missed in a month – well no because you can’t get an appointment!
Simple things like requesting a repeat prescription used to take 48 hours, now it can be up to 4 days, even when you order online, you go an collect the prescription and there are mistakes or items missing. All this means more time not only for the patient in having to request the missing items but also for the practice to process the request.
Staff morale, despite what Managers will admit, is low. Some staff have been there 10, 15, 20 years, that is experience you cannot buy. But people need a job to pay for the roof over their head so they remain.
As I write this, I need to see a Dr, not speak to one on the telephone who will ‘go through a process’ when talking to me. A Dr who will offer me an appointment to see me in person and review what my symptoms are and seek to do something. Over the phone is not a suitable way to deal with people who feel unwell.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are my own personal view as a patient. I am not connected in any way to the NHS or the GP Practice.