sore throats

Your child is ill, it’s late – where do you go for medical help? A Swindon story.

Off to find out-of-hours medical help...again

Have you ever had an evening where you’ve been frustrated because you can’t easily access a doctor when your child is ill?

When you know what’s wrong but you might need medicine so you will have to see a professional?


I’ve just had such an evening at home in Swindon…again.

When you have children you learn many things which have been hidden from you before. Such as, why do children get really ill really quickly? And why, when this happens, is it late at night or at the weekend? Or the week when you are working full-time as a big project comes to fruition?

All of those things have crowded in on me over the last 24 hours.

My child came home last night with a temperature and a sore throat. Taking a look showed a clear throat infection so a trip to the doctor was unavoidable. It was 7.15pm.

When my first child was born, after hours care in Swindon was excellent and easy. There was a number to ring, you called the number, explained the situation and then got a time to attend the clinic on an industrial estate in town. On site, there were a number of cars for doctors who went out to do visits.

Now things are more confused. The previous facility was replaced by another near the local hospital – the Great Western. Again you could call as before, or you could turn up and take your chances with the queue. I’ve done both.

That usually worked fine. Then somehow – and I admit I missed it -things changed. The last time I took one of my children to that facility there was a huge sign on the door. It said,like accident and emergency, they did not deal with minor ailments. This included sore throats, sickness and diarrhoea, just two of the things that afflict children all of the time and often need medicine. And there was another walk-in centre in town. So off we trekked to that place in town and waited for two hours. Only to be told then that the severe throat infection was viral and did not need any medicine.

This time I made the call and waited an hour to talk to a doctor (why do we have to do this?). A call came through but I didn’t get to it in time – they called off after three rings. So I called back, apologised and asked to speak to the doctor. This was within 30 seconds of that call. No, I had to wait again. Another hour. By this time, my four year old was in bed, it was 10pm. Nevertheless the GP asked me to take him any way.

So off we went, complete with sleepy child in bed clothes. Luckily there were only two in the waiting room. The big sign on the door was gone but it was at reception where as I went to the window (the male receptionist was not on the telephone) put his hand up to shoo me back and said ‘I’ll be with you in a minute’. What is it that such medical facilities can make you feel like an irritant, rather than a customer or client?

So I read the sign again. This extraordinary sign that said ‘like accident and emergency we don’t deal with minor ailments’. Some I could understand , like minor bumps and bruises, but others I didn’t get.

What was this place for then? What is minor and what is major and what’s in-between? Is this the in-between place? Sore throat was on the list of minor ailments but here I was with a child with a sore throat. Is it okay to go to the in-between place if a doctor says so?

We were seen quickly, no medicine required, told to come back if things got worse. That part of the service was great.

Overall, I’m confused by the out-of-hours service. It used to be clear and straightforward. Now it’s murky, requiring parents, it seems, to self diagnose and then choose which is the most suitable place to visit. In other words, waste many hours finding the right place to go at the wrong time of day.

When I was a child I suffered many, many ear, nose and throat infections – and my GP visited me at home every time. I remember him well – Dr Baizely. I don’t expect that now of course. But I do expect something better, something that works for me as well as for the NHS. It doesn’t feel efficient.

Surely there’s got to be a better way? What’s it like where you live?

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