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I have just seen the headline in my daily newspaper "Millions can't get to see their GP". This appears to be the damaging side effect of the government's aim that patients should be able to see their doctor within 48 hours, and if Practices keep within this government target they qualify for a cash reward.

So, this explanation solves the mystery of my own frustrating experience of trying to book a doctor's appointment prior to my holiday. There were no appointments available, but when I requested an appointment for any available time on my return, I was informed that it was not possible to book ahead. I was told that patients had to telephone on the day at 8.30 am and appointments were allocated on a 'first come, first served' policy. This was followed by a word of warning -

'be sure to ring at 8.30 am as the appointments go very quickly'. And, no, funnily enough, it wasn't possible to make an appointment at this slack time in the afternoon, it was only possible to telephone at the busy time when the surgery opened in the morning. The only thing I felt sure about was (a) at 8.30 am the phone line would be permanently engaged (b) by the time I got through all the appointments would be gone and (3) my blood pressure was already on the rise. No wonder so many people have stress related health problems. (I'll tell you I'm joking when I ask you 'Can you see the day when the current major problem of patients left on trolleys in hospital corridors will seem a minor problem of the past as we are told to 'take up thy bed and walk' as we camp out overnight at the doctor's surgery to be there at opening time in order to grab that 'first come, first served' appointment', but…?)

Now, whilst we wouldn't want to go back to the 'no appointment' system of the l950/60's when we called in at the doctor's surgery on our way home at 6 pm after a hard day's work and were still waiting there at 8.30 pm surrounded by coughing and wheezing patients, steamed-up windows, which you daren't open because of the smog outside. You went in with a troublesome back and came out with a troublesome cough. I would also hazard a guess that those crowded stuffy waiting rooms were responsible for passing on many germs and viruses. Obviously, we wouldn't want to return to those days, but on the plus side at least we saw the great man himself.




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