Friday, 6 August 2010

"I'd like to speak to my doctor"

I was chatting with a lady the other day who is not a patient at our practice. She told me that she had phoned her surgery to ask to speak to her doctor. Not necessarily immediately, but sometime in the next day or so. Would the doctor ring her back?  My friend received a straightforward reply, 'No!' It transpired that the doctor wasn't available on the day of the request. Indeed when pressed the receptionist said that the doctor wouldn't ring back because she was 'in and out over the next few days'. And anyway 'our doctors don't ring patients back'.

Eventually my fiend was told that she could ring at 4.23pm in 4 days time and speak to 'a doctor'. There was no guarantee of which doctor it would be,  but that was the only way of 'speaking to the doctor'.

I despaired when I heard this. Why make it so difficult to access the doctor?  There are multiple things that patients may want to chat about over the phone. I returned about  20 phone calls to patients today. Some were anxious about symptoms so I have squeezed them into surgeries in the next few days. Some wanted to discuss blood results, some wanted clarification about medication  and there were various other queries. OK I had a busy day, taking these phone calls as well as doing surgeries and reading/writing letters and doing other paperwork, but it was good to provide a service.

Us doctors really should put ourselves in our patient's position sometimes and realise how frustrating some of our behaviour is. With the Daily Mail on our case I fear we only have ourselves to blame. Of course some patients will abuse open accessibility, but even then it shouldn't be impossible to discuss it and come to a compromise. I fear that constantly moaning about the conduct of patients blinds us to our own deficiencies. It's good to talk.
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