Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Wheel of Ill-Health



At our local GP practice, the drawbridges have finally gone up. Pour the boiling oil on the sick and fire the poison arrows on the invading cancer patients.
Receptionists were once quite happy to field anger and abuse from behind their desks. They now have the protection of a large perspex screen with just a few holes for the ill and dying to mumble through.
It is interesting that after several decades breathing the germs of their "service users", reception should now go into lockdown. It coincides exactly with staffing cuts which make it impossible to get through on the phone to book an appointment.
Only last year somebody would answer promptly and politely, and appointments were scheduled with only a short delay. Now it's not worth calling, unless you fancy "Greensleeves" on a relaxing loop.
I overheard a feeble old man complaining about this to staff recently. The receptionist replied wearily that she would have more time to answer the phone if she didn't have to speak to moaners like him. Goodness, ouch. He really was quite old and infirm. Not some hyper-paranoid mum like me. A really weak old man who had to walk to the surgery to book the appointment. Anyway, at least it means those strong enough to walk down there to make a booking get the best appointments. The genuinely sick can just sit listening to the hold music.
Meanwhile, I picked up the glossy flagship brochure of the "Not Always A and E" campaign, designed to stop people with hangovers rushing to casualty for a paracetamol.
It's a laudable campaign. People do indeed misuse the service. But it is hardly surprising they do, when the GP is uncontactable, the out of hours service is non-existent, and emergency appointments seem reserved for babies and children.
I had some fun at home with the reassuringly expensive brochure. It invites the user to "find your symptom" on a revolving wheel, then turn to different numbered sections. I spin the wheel for "choking, chest pain, blacking out, blood loss and stroke". Thankfully, I'm referred to A and E, as these are classed as "serious emergencies".
A simple case of vomiting or "a sore tummy" takes me to my GP, but diarrhoea can be "treated by health a professional at your local pharmacy".
Excuse me, but why is "a sore tummy" more serious than the runs? A sore tummy could just be a case of a Gaviscon and a lie down. Who put this together? HOW MUCH did all this spinning origami cost? Interesting they have the cash to tell me to "self care" if I have a hangover, but they can't be bothered to run a national flu-jab publicity campaign.
I shall be keeping my "wheel of ill-health" to hand for the next time  I or a family member becomes ill. It should help me penetrate the moat and castle walls of the health services I have helped pay for.

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