No-one leaps for joy at the idea of having to book an appointment with the GP. That’s true of the people I know, at least.
In my experience, you finally get to the GP surgery after at least a week of waiting, talk with your GP for ten minutes and by the time you leave you’ve picked up someone else’s cough and made your hands reek of disinfectant. (What’s in that stuff they put in the dispenser?)
Most of us visit our GPs more than five times a year, according to a report from NHS England. So we should remind ourselves of what the process involves and prepare for the ride to come, especially if it’s going to be a bumpy one.
1) The first phone call
Living in the most technologically advanced age of all time, you might think that human beings love talking on the phone. But that’s simply not true.
With Ofcom reporting that 62% of UK adults now use social media to communicate with family and friends, and almost one quarter of online adults use Twitter for the same purpose, it seems that most of us would prefer to send a quick text or tweet over having to make a potentially long-winded phone call. The same goes with the GP. #JustTextMe
2) The receptionist
However you feel about the staff at your own GP practice, recent reports from Cancer Research UK and the Office for National Statistics have found that receptionists ranked as the third most significant barrier to UK inhabitants accessing GP and health care services.
I personally always try to make a point of building a good relationship with the receptionists at my GP practice, because you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, right? But some people feel like they’re being judged or being forced to divulge more information than they want to. It’s a tricky situation for both sides of the table.
3) Wasting time
The whole process from phone call to consultation just feels so unnecessary, and there are so many other things that you would rather be doing with your time. Not to mention the things you need to be doing with your time.
Whether it’s picking up your son or daughter from school, or making sure you get more hours in at work, your time is already spread so thinly that you can’t afford to take another morning off for a GP appointment. But you still end up having to do it.
What’s more is that when you get to the GP surgery, there’s an added waiting time for your appointment. It’s scheduled to start at half past the hour, but the minute hand always manages to creep closer to the next hour before you’re seen by your doctor.
The word ‘travel’ has come to be associated with extended self-discovery holidays and experiences of cultural enlightenment.
But for those of us requiring a repeat prescription, ‘travel’ means hauling ourselves down to the GP surgery, while fighting the infamously unpredictable English weather. Though the surgery is only supposed to be a convenient walk, bus ride or car journey away, it never feels that way, does it?
Once you finally get to your appointment, you have to book in with the surgery.
You wait patiently at the sign-in desk, and then get re-directed to the digital screen in the back corner of the room. After fumbling around for a bit, you eventually type in all your details … and then the screen freezes.
Back at reception you join the never-ending queue and have to ask for help signing-in. Naturally, ten minutes have passed, and now you’re technically late for your appointment. The ‘joy’ you feel can hardly be contained.
Your appointment isn’t with the same GP you saw last time you were refilling your prescription. No surprise there.
Going through your medical history, yet again, is starting to wear a bit thin. You feel like personal introductions and small talk are becoming the new banes of your life.
7) Sterile environments
The uninspiring colours of the surgery waiting room are neither enthusing nor relaxing. Your eyes are either hurt or bored and your soul doesn’t fare much better. The peeling paint on the wall certainly doesn't lift your mood.
With strains on the NHS having more profound effects than ever before, you can’t help but wonder if your GP could be spending their time more effectively by treating someone with more acute symptoms and needs, or someone experiencing an unexpected emergency who needs to be seen by a doctor swiftly.
More than one in ten people fail to get an appointment with a nurse or GP, according to the GP Patient Survey. So you might feel that the time spent on your appointment for a repeat prescription could be better used treating the person who wasn’t so lucky in booking a consultation.
9) Guilt 2.0
A Pulse survey found that GPs can work up to 11 hours a day without a lunch break. So maybe freeing up your appointment could give your GP a much-needed boost?
I know I can’t function past midday if I don’t at least have a coffee break. It’s the same for GPs, and you know that. Hence the guilt.
You know the pain.
11) Seeing someone you know
When you’re sick, the last thing you need is an impromptu encounter with an estranged neighbour. You already feel terrible, and strained small talk isn’t your forté at the best of times. As much as they might like to catch-up, you just feel that the surgery waiting room isn’t the place to do it.
12) Feeling exposed
You get to the pharmacy, prescription in hand, and you quietly ask for your medication. The pharmacist searches the shelves, and lo-and-behold, it’s not there.
Then, in a completely innocent manner, your pharmacist calls back to his or her colleagues and asks them to look for your medication. By this point, you feel like everyone in the pharmacy knows about your condition, the medication you take, where you live and your favourite fast food order.
Maybe you’re being paranoid, but this feeling never seems to go away.
13) No Stock
The final frontier.
You’ve asked for your medication, the pharmacist has checked their stock (including everything they hold out in the back of the pharmacy), and you’ve nearly completed the process. The end is in sight!
Then disaster strikes. The pharmacist returns to face you at the counter, empty-handed, and you know it’s bad news from here on in. Your medication isn’t in stock.
So you can add yet another day to your waiting time. The race for your medication is not quite over yet...
P.S. If you want some help getting out of the GP appointment rabbit-hole, you should get the Echo app. It’s free to download and will revolutionise the way you manage your healthcare.
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