"Booking appointments with GPs"

About: Redbridge PCT

(as the patient),

I am lucky enough not to have needed to visit my GP for nearly two years. Since then, I have filled in several long forms asking for feedback about the GP service in the NHS, answering several questions about the ease of getting an appointment, and I naively assumed that things might have improved as a result. Sadly, no, they haven’t.

I was bitten by some nasty little insects on Saturday night and my leg swelled up rather alarmingly and was very painful. On Monday morning, 23rd July, I limped to the chemist in the high street who told me I should see my doctor as soon as possible, as I needed antibiotics.

When I telephoned my GP’s surgery, I was told there were no appointments available that day but that I could book an appointment – on the 5th August, the earliest one available! What should I do? “Well, you can make an “urgent” appointment for tomorrow if you phone next morning at half-past eight," said the receptionist. So, a day had been lost when I could have been taking antibiotics to clear up the infection.

I duly dialled my GP’s number at 8. 30 today, Tuesday – it was engaged, and the voice message from BT told me that the ring-back facility was not available on that number. I dialled again, and again, and again, but the number was still engaged. I kept trying and eventually got through at 8. 55, to be told that the earliest available appointment was after 6 o’clock this evening.

So, I have another day limping around, unable to walk properly because I need antibiotics but I can’t get them because I can’t see my GP. I won’t be able to begin my course of antibiotics until Wednesday morning, by which time, if I’d managed to see my GP on Monday, the infection would be well on the way to clearing up.

Is it any wonder that I long for the days when the lone GP held a surgery from 9.30 to 10.30 every day and saw everyone who turned up between those hours? No nonsense about “making an appointment”. You had to wait your turn – perhaps for an hour or two – but at least you knew you would be seen that morning.

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