Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rude health

I don't really do sick. My last visit to the doctor, five years ago, was a waste of time (hers and mine) and the previous one, four years before that, wasn't much cop either. But we all get a little something wrong sometime. And right now I've got mine. Nothing terminal you understand, but something that requires a little treatment.

I didn't know it was coming - my fault really - otherwise I would have booked a doctor's appointment two weeks in advance. The poor girl who took my call, cruelly dragged from her nail filing, couldn't have been less interested. There was an appointment. In ten days. End of. Don't bother me wif your tale of woe. Whaddya think I am? A doctor or sumfink?

So I went to see another doctor who examined me and said yes, you've either got something which these pills will take away or you'll have to see a specialist, who can only be contacted via your own doctor. So take these pills and see if it goes away. (It doesn't).

So I get to see my doctor ten days later. In fact she's got three receptionists, each one of whom is as genuinely disinterested as they appear to be over the phone. They barely acknowledge the existence of the patients. But I'm being unfair. There was an unread copy of Heat magazine to be scrutinised. And there were boys to talk to on mobiles. And hair to be looked at. And a lot of giggling to be done, despite the pesky patients. And in the hour I sat there patiently (geddit?) waiting, a file to be filed. Just the one mind.

I saw my doc for a full five minutes, during which she neither examined me, asked any questions, or barely even spoke. I talked. She listened while (a) staring at the wall or (b) writing down my address for correspondence.

She said I'd have to see a specialist. I said I knew. She said she'd write to one. I said I was in a hurry. She shrugged her shoulders and stared right through me. "That's all I can do" she said helpfully. "Thankyou" I said. And sure enough, a few days later she hurriedly put pen to paper.

By which time I'd gone back to doctor number two, who examined me, asked lots of questions, and gave me more stuff to take. He said I could register with him and he'd get me to see a specialist outside London as soon as poss. I said I thought I should wait on the London one I was already referred to.

I called the hospital and discovered, (why am I not surprised at this?) that my doc had simply asked for an appointment. There was no sense of urgency. I was to see a specialist in four weeks time "for a check up". I explained that I thought I should see someone more quickly. The appointments person disagreed. I tried not to be rude but asked what it had got to do with her. She said I could only go to A&E and see someone there. "But I haven't been in an accident" I said stupidly, thinking that A&E was for Accidents and Emergencies rather than Appoitments and Enquiries.

For the five hours I sat in A&E, I was surrounded by people who'd been in accidents and clearly didn't know they were in the wrong place. I was going to helpfully suggest to the bloke lying along the bench seats that if he'd bothered to make an appointment before being knocked out in work this wouldn't be happening. But I didn't. None of my business, see?

But I was eventually seen. By a brilliant doc who gave me a full examination and spoke to someone on the phone. "Take these" he said, "They take a week to work which means I'll get you an appointment for next week. We'll see if they've worked"
I explain about the appointment in a month and he looks pained, swore, and told me, in that I've-got-to-deal-with-this-every-day manner, that he'd sort it. Which he did. Brilliant. Getting somewhere. I'm going to be finding out what's wrong with me. Hurrah!

Then his colleagues get to work and make sure that all trace of my visit, never mind the forthcoming appointment, is erased, Soviet style, from all records. On the day of the supposed appointment I spend two hours talking on the phone to people who (a) don't care, (b) hang up or accidentally cut me off after 10 minutes, (c) can't hear me, (d) accuse me of making it all up, but not (e) telling me to watch it. Because I don't. Ever. Lose it.

By sheer dogged determination I manage to find someone on a specific extension (which is semipermanently engaged) who searches through some records and finds my appointment. "It's at half past two" she says at 2pm. I say I know and that I've been on the phone, on and off, since 10am. "You'd better hurry up" she scolds, implying that I'm going to cause trouble by being late.

I arrive at half past two. I'm seen at 4.30. That's a two hour wait for those of you who're a bit slow (go to A&E and get yourself checked out, willya?)
The doc examines me and suggests it might be as serious as I've already been told, and that I should have a very specific test right away, adding that the department which does The Tests shuts at 5pm. It's quarter to five.

I get there at ten to five and a woman looks at me as if I'm there to kill her. She looks at me. She looks at the clock. She looks at her handbag. She looks at me again. "We're closed" she says.
"I thought you closed at 5" I say
"We're closed" she says again, clearly in shock that someone has walked through her door.
A colleague appears. "We're closed" she says.
"I thought it was 5" I say again.
"The test takes 15 minutes. You'll have to come back. Tomorrow"
I explain that I've been sitting around for more than two hours and thought I could get tested, like, now. Before 5.
"The computer is switched off" she says emphatically. "Everything is switched off" she adds, looking at the clock. Her colleague looks at the clock too, willing the big hand to get near the top.
They stare at me. They look somewhere between terrified and angry.
I stare back.

A wearied looking doctor type appears and waves me through, ignoring them, and sits me down and does the test, without a word of explanation. It takes fifteen minutes of being wired up, whizzing, clicks,bangs, whistles and print outs.

He studies the paper. He looks pained.
"When did you say this started?"
"About three weeks ago?"
"Why didn't you do something about this right away?" he chides. "Why didn't you go and see your doctor? This could be serious"



Anonymous said...

Hope you are okay Nation I know what you mean

Nationwide said...

Yes OK, but seriously let down and disappointed by NHS. Will come back to the subject soon.

thankyou anon (!)

Anonymous said...

Let it go, you are "special" and nothing bad will ever come to you
Trust me honey

Nationwide said...

Aren't you anonymous? Or are you that woman (I hope) whose wit and barbed comments are the scourge of meeja peeps everywhere?
If you are, then more importantly how are YOU?

Anonymous said...

Hello - yes I am good just got the all clear ....

Nationwide said...

Hurrah! Well done you, very pleased for you.

Harriet Hamster said...

Hi Nation
Just wanted to say ...
Hope you are keeping okay

Nationwide said...

Tres bon, mon amis.
I am in France. It is very wet but very enjoyable.
Merci for asking.
The NHS is a disaster zone. Quite unlike anything I've experienced in a long, long time.

Amanda said...

So, are you ok then?

Do tell.We're all let down and disappointed by the NHS, but when push comes to shove it's all some of us have to rely on.

Au revoir x

Nationwide said...

Thankyou for asking. I have a small permanent problem which is now being treated by the world's greatest expert. On the NHS although to get to him I had to go private for 5 minutes. Very happy with that.
I'm not being prissy, and I certainly understand it's not just me, but the actual process of trying to get appointments and the required tests, then trying to find your records, even speak to someone, is quite breathtakingly difficult. My second appointment with said specialist was suddenly canclled - he didn't know why either - and to cap it all I was scolded for not turning up to TWO appointments with people I'd never heard of.
Hang on, this is turning into another blog/rant. I'm in France. I'm off to lunch.

Anonymous said...

Trotters to you too !