I have been needing to see a doctor for a while. I’ve had a nagging ache that’s has been driving me bananas. But since I moved from south London to north I haven’t registered at a local surgery. You see, NHS patients are required to register at a surgery within 2 miles of their home address, that is, if the surgery is accepting new patients. It saves a lot of time to call ahead and find out.
When I first arrived in the UK I went to a surgery office in Tooting to get registered. But unfortunately they wouldn’t let me see a doctor until I completed the entire process. Fair enough. But you can only register between a few hours on certain days of the week. O-kay. Apparently the nurse is only in on certain days. You think, wow, this nurse must be pretty darn special if she’s the only one allowed to deal with new patients. So you’re given some paperwork to return in, say, two weeks. Yeah. Two weeks. Okay. Two weeks is better than nothing.
Two weeks go by and I return, ready to be pricked and prodded by what I assume must be the best nurse ever. I mean, why else would she be so busy? So after a five minute visit where she asked a couple of questions and took vitals and I was good to go. You mean I waited two weeks for five minutes of this lovely nurse’s time? A visit any literate person could have conducted? Oy. But at least now, now I can see a doctor (at another appointment, mind you).
Enter Tooting doctor. “What seems to be the problem?”
“Well, my ankle and foot has been hurting for months now. I can’t seem to get better.”
He looks at me and tells me he will schedule me for a rheumatoid arthritis test. Does he check my ankle? No. Does he even check my vitals (as is customary)? No. So I limp away and return again at another weird ass time because it is the only time blood could be drawn. Results come back and guess what? It’s not arthritis! But this time the news was given to me by a different, more eloquent doctor. “You mentioned that you have gained some weight in the last year.” I nod. “Well, perhaps the pain is from weight gain.” So my ankle and foot hurts because I am fat? Really? That’s all I got? Sigh. So I limped away.
That was the second visit I had where the doctor didn’t take my vitals or check my ankle for a sprain, bruising or whatever. I had a hairline fracture in the ailing foot earlier in the year. The podiatrist back home was also able to tell me that my arches needed better support and recommended some stretching exercises. So I figured maybe the stretching exercises would help. And thankfully it did. My ankle has been hurting less and I am still fat.
East Finchley Surgery was and is a doozy. Like the Tooting surgery they only allow people to register between certain hours on certain days. I walked in and see that I have entered a 1970s wood-like side paneling nightmare. And it smells of paint. How people sitting in the waiting room was able to stand it was beyond me. To save time I downloaded and filled out all the paperwork at home and just dropped them off. Do I have to see a nurse? Nope. Just call them in a week to set up an appointment with the doctor. Meanwhile I am sick and end up going to a walk-in clinic (why had no one told me where one was or that I was eligible to go, who knows?) where they are able to band-aid my problem and no more. They can’t examine me thoroughly (x-rays, take blood, etc.) because they don’t do that. I think, fine, that’s okay because I’ll be able to see my new doctor/GP in a few days.
I call to set up my appointment and they can’t seem to find me in the system. I have them look me up using my first and last name, by address and birthdate. Nothing. The receptionist finally gives up and tells me to call back in two days when the woman responsible for entering the data is there. Um…okay. Two days go by and I call back and go through the same song and dance. Finally she tells me they can’t find the paperwork and that I will have to come back and fill them in. At this point I am feeling wretched, frustrated and sad. I tell her that I don’t feel confident in their services and how much I would like to see a doctor, to which she replies, “I’m sorry but you will have to come in and fill the paperwork out again. We are redecorating and this normally does not happen, I assure you.” Well, I can assure you that I never will set foot in that place again. Which leads me to my current surgery.
The Highgate surgery office may be a winner folks. They are pleasant on the phone and they don’t require you to register during a full moon or have any other crazy registration restrictions. The place looked like a lot of doctor offices that I’ve liked: bright, a bit busy and well kept. I filled out my paperwork and heard the best news ever: I can see a doctor before I finish registering with the nurse (which won’t be until the 30th. Nurses sure are popular).
Funny enough as I am writing this I am starting to feel a bit better. Maybe it’s the relief that maybe, just maybe, I have found a decent surgery? I don’t know.
I would love to hear about other people’s, especially expats’, NHS experience. I’ve read a couple of horror stories. Like, did you know there are no stirrups on the tables. I’ve looked in every office I go into. None. For a woman that does not bode well for lady visits. *Shudder*