Jane Bates: You should get that looked at…

Given how difficult it can be to see a GP, are people finding other routes to healthcare?  

Given how difficult it can be to see a GP, are people finding other ways to manage their health?

The receptionist is as close as many people can get to an appointment with their GP. Picture: Alamy

For most of my time working in the NHS, the nurse-patient conversation has gone something like this: ‘I’m rather concerned about your blood pressure/strange lesion/unusual rash. You need to run this past your GP.’

But in 2018 it is more like: ‘I’m rather concerned about your blood pressure/strange lesion/unusual rash. Err…. um….’

There was a time when if we had concerns about a patient that were outside our sphere of practice, we would refer the person to the family doctor. I must have sent hundreds of patients to their GP surgeries in my time, as have most of us, I’m sure.

Sorry situation

But now we are in such a sorry situation that just the mention of seeing a GP will cause the patient to gape at you as though you have just parachuted in from la-la land. Fat chance, they tell me, there are no appointments.

Then there is that stalwart of local healthcare provision, the practice nurse. There will always be a practice nurse, surely? But nurses are equally hard to access, I am told.

I get the impression that we might as well ask Donald Trump to take their clips out, or one of the Moomins to inspect that suspicious spot. A health professional? No chance.

Some would argue that in a technological age we should leave the traditional models of health provision behind, and embrace the new. GP at Hand, for instance, is great for hipsters and those who can afford swanky phones, but when the majority of patients are in their declining years, with impaired faculties and incomes, it is an app too far. Say what you like about the traditional family doctor set-up, but at least it is egalitarian.

And in my limited experience, the NHS 111 urgent care phone service has acted as a rerouter to – guess what? – the GP.

The way forward

Where we go from here I have no idea, but what surprises me is that there is not more of a public outcry.

Easy access to a GP has been the backstop of our lives for most of us, so is this situation exaggerated? Are we just being British and keeping calm and carrying on? Or are people finding different ways of managing their health?

Interesting. In the meantime, I’ve spoken to many kind and helpful receptionists lately. Maybe next time I’m ill I will go and see one of them instead. 

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



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