GP Appointments are Precious – Treat Them That Way!

Trigger Warning: Mentions of health issues and quality of life.

Admittedly I’m a bit of a burden on the NHS. I was a bit of a self-diagnoser when I was younger; I got myself into a tizz thinking the beginnings of puberty meant I had breast cancer, I’ve had what I thought was melanoma that turned out to be a short-lived bout of dermatitis, and I’ve turned up at their doorstep many, many times convinced that death was waiting for me on the other side of a panic attack.

That said, I have also been very ill. It’s been a long few years of misdiagnoses and failed prescriptions. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been to doctors’ surgeries and the number of GPs I’ve met. We don’t need to get into a long list of everything that’s been wrong with me but let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of unglamorous ailments.

“My heart goes out to those who have to pay to be able to get the treatment they require.”

Too often I say a silent prayer to the NHS because without them the journey that I – and every other person with a long-term condition – have been on would be so much harder. My heart goes out to those who have to pay to be able to get the treatment they require. We have an overstretched and overworked service in this country but, my God, I don’t want to think of a world without it.

With the absence of Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave camp’s mystical £350 million a week – and that’s an argument for another day – the NHS is struggling. It may seem like helping the situation is out of our grasp but there’s one simple thing we can do: turn up to our appointments. During my latest visit to the surgery, I spotted a bleak sign that said, in August, people had failed to turn up for 177 appointments. That’s an average of almost nine appointments a day. Nine!

“A woman left the surgery because she ‘couldn’t be bothered’ to wait any longer as she needed the toilet.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me. In my previous GP surgery in my home town, a woman left the surgery because she ‘couldn’t be bothered’ to wait any longer as she needed the toilet. My jaw hit the floor when she walked out to go home. I performed my finest exasperated but polite sigh – a classic, passive aggressive move.

The importance of the problem was reinforced as I watched Channel 5’s programme GPs: Behind Closed Doors. Someone on the show named Julie said they wanted to request a DNR because their autoimmune illness had become debilitating. For those who don’t know, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) is usually a decision reserved for those who are extremely frail or who have a life-threatening illness. Julie insisted her quality of life was so poor due to her condition that it was the right decision for her. It goes to show, you have no idea how poor health can seriously affect a person not just physically, but mentally. For people like this, we need to keep as many GP appointments available as possible so they can receive the care and advice they need as soon as they possibly can.

By all means, if you don’t feel very well you should try and get an appointment with the doctor. You are as entitled to be taken care of as anyone else. When your appointment is made, appreciate it, make the most of it, and consider others who might need it should you no longer wish, need, or be able to attend. All it takes a phone call to let the surgery know and they can offer it to someone else. The NHS won’t be forced to waste precious time and money, and the health of another person could be helped.

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