I have gripes with the NHS. They are many and varied.
1. GPs Who Don't Care
It is very difficult to find a GP who actually gives a toss. At my previous surgery (Sherwood House), my actual GP - who, it should be noted, had been my GP my entire life, more or less - was constantly dismissive or rushed. I saw him when I had the glandular fever. He referred me for blood tests and told me to make an appointment to come back in a week so he could look at them. So I came back in a week and he didn't have a clue why I was there, then diagnosed me as having "a viral infection". Even more annoying, when I asked for a doctor's note to take back to work with me (because I'd been off for three weeks) he put my illness down as "sore throat". Yes, a sore throat which practically incapacitated me for two weeks...
I've also seen a fair few locums in my time (mostly because my actual GP is impossible to get hold of) and the quality of care differs from doctor to doctor. Sometimes they are calm and collected and actually want to listen, and sometimes they absolutely do not. I saw an emergency locum for my second kidney infection who had me in and out of the room in about 30 seconds, as if I was taking up his precious time with my minor problems. Another locum refused to see me because I was 15 minutes late for my appointment thanks to bus stupidity. On the other hand, the locum I saw about my depression was absolutely lovely, and took the time to actually listen to me.
Before I left Sherwood House I was considering changing my GP to Dr Jaron (name not changed because she's not guilty), because all the times I've seen her she's been absolutely brilliant. I saw her when I wanted to go on the Pill, and she talked things through with me for a good 15 minutes. The only trouble? Not only was she only part-time, but because she was so good, everyone wanted to see her. She usually had a delay of up to 20 minutes on appointments, but everyone knew it was because whoever she had in with her was getting good, thorough treatment.
Thus far at the new surgery I've barely had to see the GP and can't really comment on the quality, except that the surgery has the audacity to put up that usual notice about turning up for your appointments and how many missed ones they've had that month, when the fact of the matter is half the time the bloody doctor doesn't turn up on time, so I imagine the majority of patients get bored and leave. I've had morning appointments at 9.00am which have not occurred until 9.20 because my doctor has been running late. Lead by example, mmkay?
I mention this because of the Mole Saga. I went to my GP to get a referral for a mole removal. Sherwood House had a machine and a qualified GP (mine, ironically enough) and hence could removed minor, non-malignant moles after a quick examination without the need to go to hospital and see a dermatologist. I should have got the bloody thing removed before I changed surgeries, but see previous point about my GP being impossible to see. Anyway, I went to my surgery to get a referral, to get the mole under my navel removed. Doctor examined it and sent the referral to the hospital (plus other non-urgent referral for physio for my back, which I'll bring up again later). So I go to the hospital, wait bloody ages in the waiting area because - surprise, surprise - they're 45 minutes behind on appointments, only for the dermatologist to say it's not dangerous and he doesn't recommend removal, and I should just go back to my GP and they'll remove it for me.
GAH. NO THEY WON'T. THAT'S THE POINT.
I was so frustated by the time I got in there, however, that I just conceded defeat. I didn't want to repeat the entire rigmarole of going back to the GP and getting ANOTHER referral and going through the same bloody process again thanks to internal miscommunication, so I just left it. I still have the mole. There's a skin clinic in Birmingham city centre. When I have the money I'm going to PAY to get the damn thing removed, if all the NHS are going to do is shunt me from one department to another.
Okay, here's the thing. If I were a surgery receptionist and I was getting paid peanuts to be abused on a daily basis by angry patients, I'm pretty sure I'd be pissed off as well. But there is such a thing as professionalism, and perhaps the receptionists wouldn't get so much abuse if they just treated patients with respect in the first place. The receptionists at Sherwood House were just so mind-bogglingly awful it was surprising they kept their jobs. Nobody would answer the telephone at lunchtime. Literally. All reception staff had lunch at the same time, between 12.00 and 1.30pm, so it was impossible to make an appointment in your lunch break. They were generally unhelpful, surly and miserable.
I also never forgave the one receptionist with whom I had the following exchange:
Me: I've got an appointment with [name of counsellor]. What room's she in this week?
Receptionist: *leans close to me, whispers conspiratorially* For counselling?
Because there isn't enough stigma attached to mental health as it is...
4. Closing Early and General Untimeliness
Okay. WHY do the majority of GP surgeries close early on Wednesdays? It's not as though they're even open on Saturdays to justify the early closing!
In addition to this, my current surgery has increased its repeat prescription turnaround time to 48 hours instead of 24, just to be even more inconvenient. It's almost as though they're deliberately making things as difficult as they possibly can when it comes to seeing a GP or getting your medication.
I'll repeat the physiotherapy rant whilst I'm here. After my GP sent the referral, I then received a letter from the Physiotherapy Service requesting me to phone them up and make an appointment which was convenient to me. The only time I could call was Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 12.00pm - naturally, the most inconvenient time they could possibly give me. The letter was dated some point in February - I didn't receive it until March - and asked that I make an appointment within four weeks of the date of the letter, or I'd be discharged.
I don't know if the date was an error, or they'd just neglected to send it out on time. In short, the cut-off time for phoning up was a week before I'd even received the bloody thing, and the upshot was that I assumed I'd been discharged already and didn't bother to ring them. Thankfully, the back problem cleared up on its own and I didn't need the physio anyway, but my entire issue was that even if I HAD rung them up, the appointment time would NEVER be convenient for me, and if they're going to waste my time (and theirs, as it turned out) by making me ring them up for an appointment, they might as well jump to the chase and waste it by MAKING me an appointment. Right?
This leads me nicely onto the next point.
5. Public Services are only for the Unemployed
I'm including other public services in this point, including (but not limited to) banks. What public services FAIL to understand is that the only time their employed service users are able to use the service is when they are NOT AT WORK. This is an incredibly simply concept which, even in the brand shiny new 21st century, has not settled into the thick skulls of whoever upper manages said public services. Hence, CLOSING at weekends and on public holidays is absolutely sodding ridiculous.
Banks TRY, I suppose. They at least open on Saturday mornings, and I'll let them off opening late on Wednesdays for that reason. GP surgeries generally do not open on Saturdays unless they're specific emergency surgeries, which are few and far between and usually located in the arse-end of nowhere.
The main reason this pisses me off is this: I work for a living. It shouldn't be too much to expect that when I'm NOT working (in ordinary circumstances, I mean, as opposed to annual leave), I can utilise my local GP surgery. I am lucky enough to work for an organisation which has flexible working hours, but some people don't have that luxury. And you'd think, in this culture of people working late, someone would have caught on by now that just because it's convenient for the unemployed people doesn't mean it's convenient for everyone else.
6. Catchment Areas
THESE ARE DUMB, and the entire reason this rant came about.
I managed to confirm this afternoon, whilst looking for Christmas presents in Boots (and failing, but that's neither here nor there), that there is now an actual GP surgery in addition to their walk-in centre. For a while now I'd been hoping to find a GP surgery closer to the city centre because it would make my life a lot easier (see above re: I WORK FOR A LIVING), so I went down to investigate and asked if I could register. (It should be noted, also, that this is the ONLY surgery in the city centre, and I assume they've finally realised that people actually live there these days.) Because I live in Kings Heath, I am "not in their area".
Yeah. Thanks. This whole catchment area system needs a complete revamp, or at least some exceptions. Also, I would expect a CITY CENTRE surgery to have slightly different rules to an ordinary suburbian surgery, given the sheer amount of people who work there and would find registering somewhere central a lot easier. Especially as there's obviously a pharmacy upstairs.
So that's my cunning plan scuppered, then. Brilliant. At some point I'm going to have to attempt to register at the new Vicarage Road surgery, which was the one who only allowed you to register on Monday and Tuesdays at 1.00pm, but obviously it'll have to wait until I'm on leave and thus ABLE TO GET THERE. *bangs head against wall*
7. Student Registration
This system also needs completely revamping, although my experience is old and may be out-dated. Nevertheless...
When I moved away from home to go to university, I had to register with the GP surgery up at the uni. (No complaints about that surgery, thankfully...) Anyway, no problem there, until I came home for the summer holidays and found myself suffering with my first kidney infection.
Not knowing what it was, I let it get worse until the pain was unbearable, at which point I ended up going to Sherwood House to get an emergency appointment. Because I had 'changed' my surgery to that at uni, I had to register as a 'temporary' patient at my HOME SURGERY. More to the point, the Evil Receptionists saw absolutely no problem in making me fill out paperwork at the front desk, whilst I could barely stand from being in so much pain, before they'd even let me sit down for the appointment.
The system is shit. It should be the other way around. You should be able to temporarily register at your university surgery or equivalent if you move to a different city, whilst retaining full patient status at your home surgery. And given the fact that everything is computerised these days, it shouldn't be that bloody difficult to transfer patient records anyway, and the entire process could be done with a click of a button if someone had the bloody foresight to think about it.
I'm sure there are plenty of students who stay in their university city upon graduation, but equally, there are plenty who return home. I'm also fairly sure the majority of students go home for the summer, so surely it makes sense for them to stay registered at their home surgery?
I can't believe this hasn't been thought through properly. It's utterly ridiculous.
I need to stop now, because my hands are freezing. The heating was broken at work today and I've had cold hands since I got in, so that hasn't helped with the aggravation in the slightest. Sometimes, I just think all these gigantic companies - the NHS, Birmingham City Council, whatever - need to be taken apart, examined on a deeply molecular level, and put back together again by someone who knows what they're doing, someone with a fresh perspective and who lives in the fucking 21st century. FFS, give me a sledgehammer and I'll do it myself.
I apologise for the length, but these things just make me so frustrated and angry, and in the absence of being able to do anything about it, all you get is the verbosity. Meh.