My son was ill over the weekend. Why am I just not surprised that he was fine all week but late on Friday night he started to get a temperature and show signs of sickness.
Next morning, as he sat lethargically on the sofa, I decided to bite the bullet and attend the drop-in health centre that I’d been to many times before – in a building attached to the local hospital. Part of the out-of-hours service.
I didn’t call the out-of-hours’ number because I’d be given a choice, go to the drop-in or wait for a nurse to call you back and tell you to…..go to the same NHS Walk-In Centre. Why waste even more time being told what I already knew?
Imagine my surprise then, when I got to the place that I’d visited many times before to have ears and throat checked – they wouldn’t see me.
Oh no, no longer would they deal with ‘minor’ issues. On the door was a big notice showing a depiction of of a body with a list of all the minor ailments that they wouldn’t deal with any longer.
The fact that many of those things in children require medicines only available on prescription seemed totally over looked. As I knew my boy had an ear or throat infection, I had to either go to another drop-in health centre miles away or call my GP (closed).
Great. So not only do I have to decide whether nor not his illness is bad enough to go to Accident & Emergency (or not). I now have to decide whether or not his illness is suitable for the drop-in centre that I’d used countless times before without any problem.
As a parent, I now have to self-diagnose my child’s illness at two levels – and if I get it wrong, I’ll have to deal with some snooty receptionist who will probably consider me to be exceedingly dense.
I totally accept that some people turn up at Accident & Emergency for a stubbed toe and, maybe, at the drop-in centre for a sore pimple – but MOST OF US DON’T DO THAT! MOST OF US DON’T WANT TO SPEND HOURS WAITING FOR A NECESSARY BOTTLE OF ANTIBIOTICS WHICH WE’LL HAVE TO INFLICT ON OUR OFFSPRING FOR A WEEK OR MORE!
How come when I was a kid, my GP would come out to see me – in fact even offered to do so when I was ill? I had loads of throat infections when I was small so my GP always knew what I had, but still came, even once on Boxing Day.
Now, blah years’ later, we are supposed to be more responsive to people, more flexible, ready to meet patients’ needs – instead we just seem to be making most parents’ job even harder.
I went off again to another NHS drop-in centre and waited two hours for a nurse to diagnose a severe throat infection which required antibiotics.
If I’d lost the will to live and given up, my boy would have suffered for another 48 hours before I could have got to the GP. If I’d had no means of transport, I’d have spent hours getting backwards and forwards.
Somehow I just don’t see any of this as an improvement in basic health care.