The National Health Service was set up to provide medical treatment for everyone free at the point of delivery. In other words, the NHS was supposed to provide treatment for everyone irrespective of their means and there was to be no charge at the point of delivery. We know the latter no longer applies in that we have to pay for medical treatment and for prescriptions. Most people reluctantly accept this.
However, the way many GP surgeries operate means that those who are in employment are effectively excluded from NHS services. Apart from Accident and Emergency services (and dental treatment), most other medical services are only accessible via your GP. To access these services, you need to make an appointment to see your GP. This is easier said than done.
There are regular articles in the press where those in medical profession bemoan the fact that people use A&E for things other than accidents or emergencies. There are also frequent articles stating that males do not visit their GPs for preventative medical care.
This is not unconnected. My recent experiences of trying to access GP services has led me to the conclusion that working people are effectively prevented from accessing GP services. These services appear only to be available for the Unemployed, or those who work at home.
Strong words you say, but let me try to explain.
I work some 13 or so miles away from where I live. It takes me over an hour to commute to work by public transport or by cycle. I am not alone in this. Many people live in a different area to where they work.
To get an appointment to see a Doctor, I am told I have to ring the Doctor’s surgery at 0830 for an appointment that morning or at 1330 for an appointment that afternoon!
In practice what happens is that you cannot get through on the telephone for at least 30 minutes after the stated times, and when you do get through, you are told all the “urgent” appointments for that day are gone! So, what happens in practice is that people are queuing up outside the doctor’s surgery from sometime after 0700 waiting to try to get an appointment in person. Not sure this is the best thing for an ill person to be doing, queueing, in the cold and wet trying to get an appointment. It sounds very third world doesn’t it?
Now, at 0830 I am usually at my work, so even if I were able to get through on the telephone, I could not get back to get to the surgery in time for an appointment if one were available. If I waited at home until after getting through to the surgery, it would be well after 0900 before I could set off for work, meaning I would miss 2-3 hours work. I would then have to do the same the next day and so on until I get an appointment. I am not sure many people’s work would appreciate them turning up 3 hours late each day.
Ok, I hear you say, if its urgent, you would not be going to work. That may be true, but what about when you need to see Doctor for a routine matter or a non urgent illness. For example the NHS run an advert saying if you have had a persistent cough for more than 3 weeks you should see your GP. Earlier this year, I had a persistent cough for around 6 weeks and decided to follow the NHS advice. I rang my GP to be told I would have to ring at 0830 or 1330 each day for an urgent appointment. When I asked about a routine appointment I was told there were none available – at all at any time. When I asked what I should do regarding my persistent cough, I was told to go to A&E. Yes my GP is telling me to go to A&E for non urgent matters!
More recently, I was seen by my GP (in September) after I had attended A&E after a cycling accident. The GP sent me for blood tests. I was told to ring a week later for the results. The surgery told me there was an issue with the blood test results and the GP needed to see me. The first available appointment was 2 months in advance!
Lets turn to a different matter. The September appointment also resulted in my GP arranging for me to be sent for blood pressure monitoring. Arrangements were made for me to attend a different Doctor’s surgery approximately 5 miles away and not on any direct transport route to have a monitoring device fitted. Although it is said to be a 24 hour monitoring, it was only going to be for 21 hours as they needed the device to reuse it. Yes, NHS cut backs mean a 24 hour monitoring period was only going to be 21 hours.
My appointment was for 10:15 today, so I arranged to be away from work today. I was told I had to return the device at 0900 tomorrow morning. Now given I start work at 0800 and it would take approximately 2 hours to get from the Doctor’s surgery to work, I would be missing another 3 hours off work as well as today. I offered to return the device on my way to work. I was told that was not possible as the surgery was closed and the little box (approximately 3″ x 2″ x 1″ ) could not be put through the letterbox as it was “too valuable”. I was also told it was not possible to return it on my way home from work that afternoon as it would be needed in the morning to be reused that day. Thus it appears I need to take 2 days off work to be able to have my blood pressure monitored. The idea of the monitoring is to see what my blood pressure is like during a normal day. If I take 2 days off work it is going to monitor me having a sedentary 24 hours. Not a lot of point to it as its not going to give a representative reading.
This situation comes about because the private company who have the contract for supplying and monitoring the blood pressure units are maximising their profits by cutting back to the minimum the number of units they buy. They fit at that surgery 25 units each day, and they have 25 units available. Thus they need the units back to use the next day. Any sensible business, especially one that considers its customers would ensure they had sufficient machines to allow for contingencies and to fit in with the lifestyles of their customers. If the company were not cost cutting so much, they would have enough units so that they could allow customers to return the device without requiring customers to take more time off work.
It is not unusual in many areas for people to live and work some distance from where they live. It is not practical for someone to take successive days off work for something that does not really need time to be taken off work.
So I left the appointment today without having the monitor fitted. I tried to contact my GP surgery to be told that they could not offer any non urgent appointments at all. Not now or at any time in the future! I was told to ring at 0830 or 12330 each day to see about getting an urgent appointment for that day. Now I have already said about the problems this causes for someone who works in a different area to where they live. Incidentally this phone cvall took 15 minutes of the day. Again, this is something that would cause problems if I had been in the office today.
The approach of the GP surgery is putting even more pressure on the “urgent” appointments with people taking them for routine matters as they cannot get routine appointments at all!
For me, I am trying to use the GP services as advised, and am trying to look after my health, but I am being prevented from seeing a GP or accessing services. I cannot access treatment.
The NHS in the way it currently operates is such that it is not providing a service to those who work, and is only really accessible for those who are not working, whether unemployed, caring for children or retired. Ironically, it is those in work who are paying the taxes that fund the NHS. Yes those who cannot access the NHS services!