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Patients need patience: the doctor will (not) see you now

No one’s waiting: go online is the message for patients. (Picture courtesy: R+O on Unsplash)

DOCTORS must be loving this new world order. The one where they filter enquiries to such an extent that they are rarely bothered with having to deal with patients face to face.

Those nuisances (once known as patients) are kept firmly at arm’s length; or an aggravating (Dial 1 for …) phone call away.

Barriers have been set in place to deter all but the most persistent.

The idea of a doctor actually seeing what ails us has gone the way of home visits and developing personal relationships.

Beside manner? What’s that – what’s a bedside?

No more do we hear that welcome phrase, “the doctor will see you now”. Instead it’s a case of let’s see how determined you are to have a real-time consultation.

First hurdle, if you phone the surgery, is to undergo interrogation by receptionist. An alternative challenge is to visit its website. Survive either of these and with any luck you will dial 111 (for more online questioning), trudge into A&E or, in despair and desperation, call an ambulance.

Whatever, not our problem anymore.

Serial pests might succeed in getting an appointment. Not to see a doctor but to receive a phone call. Examination by telephony.

In my own case, questions were asked about the injury  causing nightly agonising pains sufficient to prevent any hope of sleep.  A few strong words and a couple of expletives provided the answer.

But how to describe the actual sight of an injury so that a remote person can adequately visualise it? Could make an amusing parlour game for lock-down.

We settled on a fuzzy snapshot taken by mobile phone from a difficult angle. Two days later (a painful weekend intervened)  the doctor assured me it was an ulcer.  On a bone?  Okay, you’re the expert.

His solution was to have a special gauze dressing slapped over the top of the aggravating ankle bone.  He would organise this with the nurse.

She transpired as another voice at the end of a telephone. She assured me she was leaving a pack of dressings at the pharmacy rather than doing what nurses used to do in checking the wound, applying the dressing, and showing how and when this should be done.

Surprise! The pharmacy was staffed by real  people.  Friendly and helpful, but unable to find the promised pack of dressings in my name.  But they did unearth a prescription – for dressings. Which they didn’t have in stock and would entail a three-day wait!

A stand-off.  Resolved when the head pharmacist offered to view the angry wound.  His instant reaction was “that needs to be treated. You need that seeing to.”

If only he knew.

Out the door and down the corridor to reception, minus promised dressings.  Back to the barricades. Second stand-off. Me asking to see someone, anyone, and they demanding I make an appointment. Been there, done that, got nowhere.  Which is why I am here.

Long story made short: a nurse with a cancelled appointment was magicked up from beyond closed doors. She dressed the “ulcer”  and handed me a pack of dressings.

Five days later and counting. The acute pain continues. The loss of sleep is weakening and deeply depressing.  A check beneath the dressing reveals a newly open and angry wound.  Got supply of dressings via Amazon – more efficient than the NHS.

Back on the merry-go-round. Cannot get someone (even the nurse who treated me) to look at injury without enduring the entire interrogation by phone routine yet again to see if a face-to-face appointment is necessary.

Much arguing, much refusal to go away.

After rejecting a possible talk to a nurse two days hence the promise was made of a call from a doctor (“There are plenty in today and with free time,” I was told). Between 11 and 11.30, which eventuated at 12.30 and served up another delay (Gee, they’re good at this) with an appointment late the following day.

In the meantime I live in hope and ponder the practice’s statement that “We are delivering a service with a focus on your urgent care” plus the advice from its physio (another detour) to buy a new mattress.

Covid-19 has a lot to answer for.












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