Until recently we had a system within our doctors surgery where if you felt rough/ill/sick/in pain but didn’t feel life threatened and in need of calling 999 or heading to A&E you could just turn up and wait and before you left you would be able to see a doctor. OK there was the ‘yellow card of shame’ – that is if you turned up on a day the was not your appointed doctor you would be asked ‘is it urgent?’ At this point you had to make a judgement and should you decide that you did want/need to see a doctor that morning – you would be handed the ‘yellow card of shame’ which basically said you didn’t feel well enough to wait until the day your own doctor was on. You would then sit in the waiting room for your turn, brandished with this card for all to see! I am not sure of the point of this? Perhaps it was in the hope that patients waiting a long time might notice that it was not your day and challenge your ‘urgency’ to see THEIR doctor? Anyway, whatever the reason, at least the system allowed you to see doctor on the day you felt unwell enough to ‘brave’ attending on any day.
We now have a system where you phone and book an appointment. Take this scenario;-
I’ve been feeling Fifty Shades of Shit for some months now. Some days I’ve felt pretty good, some I’ve felt ‘not quite right’, some I’ve not been able to stay awake / stop itching/ clear a headache / sleep. Lots of minor symptoms that have gradually dragged by immune system into failure/overdrive – I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.
Four weeks ago my voice disappeared without any other symptoms. I actually felt quite fine but couldn’t speak – heaven sent my family might say! Anyway it took a good 10 days to return coming back accompanied by swollen glands, coughing, breathlessness, wheezy chest. Aall of these symptoms are still here. Some days worse than others. Alongside this I have experienced an itchy scalp for ‘some years ‘, on and off. Initially a psychological over reaction to the continued issue of headlice at junior school. This became an obsession with constant lice combing and lice treatment despite not ever finding any. Just recently (last 4-6 weeks) this itching and feeling of ‘things crawling’ has intensified to the point where I have scratched my scalp raw – leaving welts and sores and trying all sorts of alternative treatments and solutions recommended by the WWW as well as GPs to no avail. Various other minor symptoms have manifested. Many days I feel too lethargic, ‘heady’ to do anything. ,
I guess any of these symptoms in isolation are minor irritants at best. Also there are days when I feel pretty great. Also its been months. My partner keeps telling me to see the doctor. Friends suggest I need to see a doctor. I think about it. Then the next day I feel pretty ok. Or I think well maybe its because I overdid it yesterday/ didn’t sleep well the night before / am worrying about this or that issue / ate too late/ drank too much / ate too much / slept funny. How can that justify going to the doctor?
So after some months I am finally persuaded to call the surgery. They offer me an appointment for 4 days later having asked “is it urgent?”. How can I say its urgent, I’ve lived with it for months – whats another week?
How do you define urgent to see a GP? Even when phoning 999 or turning up at A&E we find afterwards we’ve sometimes misjudged ‘urgent’ and returned having discovered it was something minor.
So I say to John -” they asked me if its urgent and now have to wait another week”. He’s not happy with this (bless), in his mind it is urgent. He’s worried about me. So I phone back and say as much. The next question ‘is it urgent that you need any doctor or can it wait til tomorrow for your own doctor?” I decide I’d rather see my own doctor ‘urgently’ and am told to ring back in the morning for an ‘urgent appointment’.
So I phone -several times as its constantly engaged – and when I get through its a different receptionist. “I’d like to see my doctor today please, I called yesterday and was told to phone today~”
“Is it urgent as there is only one urgent appointment left?”
So now I’m on the verge of saying OK I’ll leave it. I’m feeling a fraud, guilty, worried I am depriving someone ‘urgent’ of their last opportunity to see the doctor. What if I go and the doctor assess that I have taken an urgent appointment selfishly as there’s nothing particularly wrong. I’m now worried that I might be wasting the doctors time. or that someone else might deteriorate before their assigned appointment as they missed the opportunity to be diagnosed today whilst I wasted the doctors valuable time. I didn’t. John was sat there when I called otherwise I may have backed down. But I felt guilty taking that appointment. I don’t know whats wrong, if anything. Perhaps i just have a screw loose!!! I’m also worried that the doctor will judge me as a time waster, or reprimand me for taking the ‘urgent ‘ appointment.
So now, as well as feeling Fifty Shade of Shit, I’m riddled with guilt and frightened of being told off – I’m like a child at school who’s forgotten to bring in their homework. Its a dilemma.
Some people, like me, struggle to approach their GP. I always feel a fraud, always forget what I need to say and always come out with a half satisfactory solution as I’ve failed to fully explain myself. I’m not ‘ill’- I can’t go in and say I think I’ve got measles, or look at this rash, or my back pain is so bad I can’t walk. I just feel like I’m lacking something or my immune system needs a boost.
Maybe all I need is some iron tablets, or vitamins, but maybe I have high cholesterol or blood pressure or under active thyroid, may be its something more serious, maybe I’m just allergic to something. How do I know ? That’s what the doctor is for and its taken me 5 weeks of feeling more rough than normal to make the call. What I do know is that I’m feeling guilty and embarrassed for taking the last ‘urgent’ appointment and as such have asked John to come with me as I think I’m going to get ‘told off’ (hahaha)
So here’s the question.”Is it urgent?”
Addendum: I’m not telling you any of this for your sympathy and concern. I am fine. Maybe a little neurotic or in need of a boost?! I’m laying my fragility on the line to make a point. this system, this question, is unfair. Maybe they should ask ‘ is it for a routine appointment?’ Perhaps that’s what they actually mean?
What do you all think?