‘Doctors are just the same as lawyers; the only difference is that lawyers merely rob you, whereas doctors rob you and kill you too’.
– Anton Chekhov
In the last year, I’ve had much cause to be grateful to the NHS. After a slightly rocky start, I’m now ‘in the system’ and the giant healthcare leviathan does it’s best to patch me up, for which I say a heartfelt, “Thank you”. But sometimes, you do wonder about what goes on behind the screen…
… Take my GP surgery, for example, and consider the following:
A couple of years ago, my husband had a car accident near the surgery. He managed to get to the building and asked to see a doctor. A doctor appeared … and refused point blank to look at him. Following a stunned silence in the waiting room, another patient volunteered to drive my husband to hospital.
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I am terrified of flying. This phobia stems from a couple of very scary incidents which took place in the dim and distant past and reduces me to shivering, scream-prone nervous wreck whenever I get near a plane.
Having tried lots of different ways to overcome this (all failed), some big brained person suggested I try tranquillisers. Brilliant! So, for the last few years, I have trotted off to the surgery prior to my annual holiday and the inevitable locum has duly given me a prescription for six pills. Yes, that’s pills, not packets.
And it’s worked a treat. Cabin staff no longer look worried on seeing me board their flight and the pilot no longer needs to think about how they’ll need to restrain me, if we hit turbulence. Everybody’s happy. And I’ve even calmed down enough to watch TV. And laugh. Job done. So, you can imagine my horror when I visited the surgery this year and the following conversation took place:
“I’m going to Mexico in six weeks, could I have some tranquillisors, please?”
“No. The airline does not allow me to give tranquillisors to its passengers.”
“But, I’ve had these before.”
“No. I’m not allowed to give you any.”
“But, I’m terrified and this conversation is making me very anxious.”
“No. You can’t have any. You need to enrol on one of those courses run by airlines for nervous passengers.”
“But I only fly once a year.”
“I can’t help you. Goodbye.”
After walking away from this, obviously empty handed and crippled by anxiety, I investigated the options for doing a flying course. Whichever way I looked at it, I couldn’t make it come to less than £1,000. Prescription cost for six low dosage tranquillisers? Just under £8. Good job I’d saved a couple of pills from last year.
My final example of inexplicable behaviour arose a few days ago.
After seven months of not driving, I said to the Offspring, “Do you know, I think I can manage to keep my head straight long enough to drive us to school/work. Shall we try?” So, I checked the DVLA website. No mention of Dystonia. OK. Phoned my insurance company. OK. So,… OK. Let’s go.
One very slow test drive later (well, 9 minutes), we were sitting outside my workplace (This journey often takes us 2 hours on public transport). Hallelujah! Back home again. Fine. Wouldn’t want to do more, but that’s OK. That short journey will improve our lives massively.
So, the next day, we do it for real. Fine again. Thank you. Thank you. Look on the Dystonia Society website and they advise telling the DVLA if you have my condition. OK. Call the DVLA who are happy, but want me to fill out a questionnaire.
“What shall I do in the meantime?”
“No problem. If your GP says you’re fit, you can drive.”
So, I book an appointment at our surgery and present myself at the appointed time.
Me: “The DVLA say I can drive if you’re happy. I’m not silly. If I’m not feeling good, I won’t do it. I only want to drive us to school/work. Nothing else. It would make such a difference to me and my daughter”.
Dr. Locum: “It’s not my job to tell you if you can drive or not. That’s for the DVLA. The only thing I can tell you is don’t drive, because I won’t give an opinion.”
So, me and the child drive slowly home, park the car and put the keys away. Back on the bus again.
Whilst it’s understood that it’s important to mitigate risk in this litigious world of ours, each of these incidents show that some elements of our wonderful healthcare system are infected with a rather unhelpful, uncaring approach to risk management. Or is it arrogance?
All to the detriment of the patient.
[Picture credit: unknown. If this picture belongs to you, please contact me and I will credit it, or remove. Thank you.]