Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Getting service from the NHS - and life's other challenges

I have just paid £12.95 to have a flu jab at Boots.

I thought that was cheap – not just for the jab, the time and skill for the pharmacist to administer it, but for the sheer convenience that apparently my GP surgery is unable to deliver.

As an asthmatic, I am entitled to reclaim some of my annual NI contributions through the NHS with a free annual flu jab.

I don’t want to complain about the NHS as I think it is one of the greatest privileges we have in this country, free healthcare for all.

However, it is the idiocy with which its funds and resources are managed which makes my hair curl.

I popped into my GP's surgery at the beginning of September to enquire about having the jab, flu is something I dread after a dose nearly wiped me out 13 years ago.

It is also very bad news for asthmatics, the resulting chest problems can be serious, often needing steroids to alleviate.

I was told that as an “at-risk” patient I would shortly be receiving a text to come in and have the vaccination.

Alarm bells rang in my head at that moment, because as I said, I have very little faith in the efficient administration of most GP practices.

But I went away and waited for a text to tell me it was time to book the jab.

Fast forward the middle of October and, had I been texted? Of course not, nor was I expecting to.

I rang the surgery, this time to be told yes, they were getting in flu jab patients, but were all booked up, I should have called earlier.

At this point you would be forgiven for thinking my inner Victor Meldrew would have awoken to deliver a tirade of indignation and fury.

It’s true I did feel my blood temperature creeping up that familiar centigrade scale to boiling point.

I was tempted to recount the fiasco of being told to go away and wait for a text.

But I have become so resigned to incompetence that I accepted it and booked an appointment for six weeks or whatever – well into the flu season.

The following day I was waking past Boots and I noticed a sign which said flu jabs were available.

I enquired, and to cut a long story short, the following day, at a time that was convenient to me, and with no faffing about, I was given the jab.

I know I am entitled to get one for free, but to be honest, it was worth coughing up just to get the job done with the minimum of fuss.

What is the problem here? Because, in all honesty, I should have been able to get this service, without going grey in the process, from my GP.

However, the system seems to be designed to make it as difficult as possible for genuine, hard-working people to get the service they pay for.

There are never any appointments at the weekend, seeing a doctor always involves taking a morning off work and a tussle with a hatchet-faced receptionist who seems to revel in making it as difficult as possible to get treatment.

To add insult to injury a couple of weeks ago I had the following conversation with my GP surgery after a cold led to what I suspected to be a chest infection.

Me: “Do you have a walk-in clinic today.”

Surgery: “Yes we do.”

Me: “Oh good, what time can I come along.”

Surgery: “Are you registered.”

Me: “Yes.”

Surgery: “In that case you can’t use the walk-in service, you have to book an appointment, and they are held at our other branch.”

Me: “Let me get this right, if I am registered I can’t walk in and see the doctor, if I’m not registered I can?”

Surgery: “That’s right.”

I checked my GP website to see what would warrant an urgent consultation with a doctor.

Emergencies are classed as emergency contraception, minor muscle aches and sprains, and emergency medication for traveling people who have lost their supply.

You couldn’t make it up.

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