"Exceptional support"

About: General practices in Tayside

(as the patient),

From what I have experienced, I have seen the standard of care for mental health in Hillbank Health Centre to be extremely high and deserving of much praise and recognition

With one exception, my main contact has been with one GP (I'm not sure whether it's appropriate to name him, but would be happy to), who has been outstanding.

He has always treated me with respect, treated me like a person, shown empathy towards me, not trivialised what I experience, been extremely reassuring and understanding of where I am coming from.

More generally, I must also commend both him and the nurse who is his colleague for their empathy and understanding towards survivors of sexual trauma and recognition of the difficulties they can face in undertaking a smear test.

This is an issue for me, because of my past childhood sexual trauma. I did some research on things that may help with this. One piece of advice is that instead of going straight in for a smear, to first meet with the nurse and discuss your concerns, ask questions, and to later make an appointment for the smear with the same nurse - often making it easier since this nurse isn't a complete, stranger carrying out the smear test, and they will be a bit more aware of your issues.

I rung and asked to make an appointment with the nurse. When the receptionist asked what it was for and I said it was to 'talk about the smear before later booking an appointment for it', the receptionist said that this wouldn't be possible, that if I wanted to speak to them in advance about the smear, I'd need to speak with the Nurse Practitioner, and later make an appointment with the nurse. I didn't feel comfortable telling the receptionist the reason why I was requesting for both to be with the same person.

But... because he had previously been so empathetic in appointments related to my mental health, I did feel comfortable asking my GP to help to arrange this.

Although he was a man, my gut instinct was that he would be understanding of the difficulties that sexual trauma survivors can experience with smear tests, but I didn't expect quite how helpful he was going to be.

He not only arranged a pre-smear appointment with the nurse, he arranged an appointment with him at the same time, so he could introduce us, and gave the nurse a short briefing beforehand. I would have been fine with him just making the appointment with the nurse, but the fact that he made an appointment at the same time with him so he could introduce us showed so much care and I felt so much compassion from him doing that, and it really meant a lot.

The nurse herself was fantastic. Very understanding. Came up with some ideas and suggestions of what may be helpful when it does come to getting the smear test done. Very reassuring that I will be in control at all times. Reassuring that if I decide on the day that I can't do it, or if I come in on the day and am struggling and want to leave that's ok. Made me a longer appointment than usual to get the smear test done. Was extremely caring, and it was so appreciated.

I did have previous experience in another surgery of trying to get a smear test where it wasn't even nearly as good as this and things didn't go well. The nurse in this case really didn't seem to get the potential difficulties in this area, even after she knew of my history. The doctor in the other surgery afterwards was really good in reassuring me that it would be ok to request a different nurse next time, as it is my body and it is important that I have control over it. That was good to hear, but the experience in the other surgery was still very triggering and upsetting, and I have been so pleased with the understanding and care shown by the staff at Hillbank Health Centre, (which I had since moved to for separate reasons )

I am booked in soon for that smear test. I am optimistic that I will be able to get it done, although I don't take that for granted as I'm very aware of the type of stuff that it could trigger in my head to do with my past sexual abuse, and the issues I have.

But regardless of how the test goes, the fact that I'm sitting here feeling quite optimistic about it, says a lot about the care shown towards me by the GP and nurse at Hillbank, and I am very grateful to them.

This has been a bit lengthy, but I think it is important to be recognised. I have heard of other sexual trauma survivors struggling with smear tests and not feeling that the difficulties are not always understood enough, and I genuinely believe that so many others could learn a lot from how Hillbank have treated this issue for me.

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Response from Tracey Passway, Clinical Governance and Risk Team Leader, Clinical Governance and Risk, NHS Tayside

Dear Redduvet, many thanks for providing feedback about the service you have received at Hillbank Health Centre, the staff will be delighted when they read this. As you have pointed out there is much learning here for other teams about the importance of being 'person centred'.

Best wishes


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