This morning I had occasion to go to the doctor for the first time in years, with a complaint that might be moderately serious (but almost certainly isn’t as, despite the beer and the fags, I’m actually in fairly good health, and there are various other factors that mean it’s probably going to turn out to be nothing more than a recurring inconvenience).
As such, I present to you the first part of an utterly unscientific test of the efficiency of the system. (Because, with various family members and friends who have, between them, worked for the NHS from its foundation up to the present day, I have little doubt that when it comes to the NHS’s apparent woes, it’s almost always the system, and not the people, that is the problem.)
8:55 – Arrived outside the GP’s surgery and joined the queue of three or four seemingly healthy mothers and children, one old(ish) lady, and three or four 20-30 somethings with nothing obviously wrong with them (much like me).9:00 – Doors opened. Given an appointment for 10:15. Wandered off for a coffee.
10:00 – Returned, sat in waiting room and read a spot of Dostoevsky (brought with me for such an occasion – the waiting room’s available literature being comprised largely of “Do you have mouth cancer?” leaflets and out of date copies of “Prima” and “National Geographic”, as expected.
10:45 – Called in to see the doctor – 45 minutes late, but not unexpected, as she is apparently only able to book patients in for 15 minute slots, which is obviously (especially a Friday before a Bank Holiday) going to result in over-run. Doctor (who I’d never had occasion to see before, despite having been registered with her for a couple of years) pleasant, apologetic for the delay, and efficient. Asks the expected questions, prescribes an expected drug, but says that the symptoms are sufficiently unusual that she’s going to refer me to a neurologist. But the new NHS computer system isn’t working properly. Says she’ll try and send me the forms I’ll need by post so I can book an appointment online – because using the computer system could delay even booking an appointment by three weeks or more.
11:00 – Leave, wander down to the Chemist, get drugs. Expect not to hear anything from the doctor for a month or so.
14:10 – Phone-call from the doctor’s surgery, checking they’ve got the correct address as they’re putting the forms I need in the post this afternoon.
In other words, so far, pretty damned good. But then again, the GP stage normally is, from what I can tell (although there are always some bad apples). I’ll report back as and when I get the forms and start trying to book an appointment. See how long the system can take for something that could – by the symptoms – be very serious and so requires a rapid response. (But isn’t. Probably. I hope…)