The frustrations of the NHS

I was feeling the first signs of a water infection AGAIN! I had that about a month ago so was not best pleased. I took the usual cranberry juice and sachets with magic ingredients but instead of clearing it, I knew it was beginning to take hold.

I phoned the doctor at midday and was told I needed to phone first thing the next morning for an appointment as there were no bookings available for the next day until ‘more were released’.

Disappointed but not surprised.

That night was painful and found me getting up at 2am and not returning to bed until after 4.30am. When 8.30am came I was on the phone with it on re-dial in an attempt to get through.

As expected, when I  got to speak to someone, although the phone lines had only been open a few minutes, the receptionist told me that there were no appointments until late afternoon. The thought of spending that time with no help in the form of antibiotics and the infection taking a greater hold was not good. However, when I told her what the problem was her tone changed and she suggested she got the doctor to ring me – ‘you can’t wait all day’ she said.

When I had the same infection recently, that was exactly what had happened. I was in London, in agony and needed to see a doctor first thing the next day but there were no bookable appointments. Rather than make me wait, possibly not to get an appointment, the doctor phoned me and left a prescription for me so I could get the medication started as soon as I got home. I was therefore surprised that I could be treated the same way again.

The doctor phoned within half an hour and agreed that the previous course had probably not been long enough so would prescribe some more. I was to leave a water sample for them to check that the tablets were the right ones.

This experience of the National Health Service had me going from despair to delight. From a position of dread of having to wait an age for some treatment to relief that the medicine could be taken straight away. Doctors receptionists often get bad press for being too nosey about your symptoms and trying to give you the diagnosis on the phone. Most of the annoyance I suspect comes from the answer being ‘there are no appointments’. My recent experience was that they do not pry now but if you do tell them some of the details they can direct you to the appropriate ‘first stage’ of treatment whether that is a call from a GP or seeing a nurse practitioner.

It is not so much a ‘holding the barricades’ approach as getting as many people dealt with as possible. Providing it is only that initial stage, I think that is OK.

It’s a funny situation isn’t it. What has been your experience of our wonderful NHS? Has the receptionist been devil or angel?

devil Angel

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  • hpliebekraft

    I’m in the U.S., but a receptionist can either enhance or hurt a medical practice. There was a doctor whom I was going to some 25 years ago, whom I liked but her receptionist was such an utter beeyotch that I changed doctors.
    I feel you on the UTI thing. I seem to be in the early stages of one. Maybe taking extra cranberry will kick it out before it really takes hold. I bought these test strips from the drug store and they indicate that I have leukocytes in my urine.

  • I’ve spent the morning at a finance presentation and the scale of the problems is going to get worse everywhere in the next few years, there just isn’t enough cash to go around.

  • First off, sorry for your dilemma. So glad you received quick attention.
    My daughter had the same problem a few weeks ago. She called her doctor and was told she couldn’t have an appointment until two days later. When she explained her situation, the receptionist advised her to come in immediately and was in and out of the office with a prescription in ten minutes.

  • Having spent an entire professional career dealing with Doctor receptionists there is no prescriptive answer. The same individual can be both a devil to deal with and a delight.

    Many GP practices are operating a “Doctor First” scheme, whereby the GP phones the patient in order of piority (patients give a brief description of the problem to the receptionist. It helps to prioritise, but if you don’t want to tell the receptionist you just say). The GP then rings you back. They then decide if they need to see you (that day or another by arrangement) or whether they can arrange a script for you.

    It sounds like your surgery is doing half of Doctor First, and Doctor First actually removes the necessity to ring at 8.30am, as everything is usually dealt with on the day or the by later arrangement.

    Hope you feel better soon.

    • jfb57

      Thank you for stopping by Julie. That is so interesting to know about Doctor First. They are clearly doing their best to get people sorted asap.

      • The website dscribing the priciple and practice behind Dr First is at

        It might also be worth seeing if your GP practice has a Patient Participation Group (PPG) many do although it is currently not compulsory, and as with many of these schemes is linked to finance. The PPG can present this option as a solution to the practice and if they don’t like the set up then at least you will be able to get involved in your PPG and give them feedback accordingly. There is a financial outlay to Dr First from the practice, so they may be hesitant (as indeed will patients be) but there is support and guidance through the set up and launch phase.

        (I have no professional or financial links to Dr First, but I do have a role with in my local PPG and have a health care background)

      • jfb57

        Thank you for that link Julie. I will investigate!

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