You really have to feel for GP receptionists. With sweeping healthcare cuts and a ballooning population, especially in London, they face more disgruntled patients than ever before. I should know, I’m one of them.
“Four weeks? I have to wait FOUR WEEKS for an appointment?!” I found myself hopelessly bleating across the desk of my local surgery recently. The tired looking receptionist held my gaze with a mixture of exasperation and sympathy.
“No that’s for your registration appointment. Then once you’re registered you can book a consultation with the doctor,” she explained.
I must have looked as broken as I felt, as she gently pushed a slip of paper across the desk. “But don’t worry, there’s a drop in centre down the road – you can go there and queue for an appointment if it’s urgent. Here’s a map.”
And queue I shall. Although I’m warned that there could be up to a four hour wait. I’m lucky as I have an extensive and amazing network of family and friends, many of whom have offered more than once to come to medical appointments and wait with me if I don’t want to go it alone. But what if you don’t have this kind of safety net? Some of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life have been the minutes and hours I’ve spent hanging around in GP waiting rooms, or at the hospital, while in the throes of depression. Fidgeting, sweating and in a general state of agitation. I don’t know if it’s the claustrophobic environment, being around other sick people or simply having to face up to medical woes, but I can’t stand these kind of appointments at the best of times, let alone when I’m mentally ill.
Today I scoped out the drop-in health centre, as a soldier might check out a possible route into battle. I figured out where it was, went in to have a look at the waiting room and asked what time I needed to get there to avoid queues and crowds. Because these are the lengths I go to to squeeze the potential stress out of anxiety inducing experiences.
All in all the outlook is good. The staff are friendly and it’s a pretty swish, shiny looking place, albeit dumped in the middle of a really grotty estate. Our health service is obviously doing something right, it seems the more deprived the area, the better the medical facilities are.
So tomorrow, 8am sharp I’ll be camped outside the clinic with my raincoat and portable stove. Once again, I’m turning to Auntie NHS for some more help and I really hope that instead of having pills thrown at me, we can find some sustainable solutions this time.