For those that have followed us for a while or even for those who keep track of us on Instagram, you’ll know that we’ve been waiting a long time for Alyssa to have surgery. She’s going to be 4 in July and I can count the number of times she has slept through the night on one hand. Not only has she very rarely slept through the night but she can/could wake anywhere between 2 and 12 times a night. Not normal I know. Thankfully, after finally getting some tests done we discovered she was suffering with sleep apnea thanks to her adenoids which were also teaming up with her extremely over-sized tonsils to make her not sleep and constantly ill, especially during Winter. Now don’t get me wrong, I really love our NHS. I have grown up in a house that has always had at least one serving NHS staff member and that’s still the same today and several other friends and family members are part of the NHS team too. I know how stretched they are and how hard they’re fighting to do what they can with what they’ve got, but through the whole experience with Alyssa and the effect it has had on me, it worries me that some, actually one particular area in our case, are so stretched they seem to have lost all heart. They just don’t seem to care. I’m talking about our local GP Surgery.
Now, we have an amazing GP surgery for 10 years and were so sad to leave it when we moved and knew any new surgery we joined would be hard pressed to fill the shoes. Unfortunately for us, we were only in the catchment for one surgery which is heavily over-subscribed and permanently busy. It takes 3-5 weeks to get a general appointment, if you’re not the first person to ring in the morning for an emergency appointment, it’s unlikely you’ll get in and the reception staff (also known as the new gestapo) seem to change the rules each and every time you ring.
We’ve needed Doctor’s notes on a few occasions and these have either taken nearly 2 weeks to come or have never materialised despite us having to pay up front for them. Generally speaking, when I took Alyssa each time she was ill and before we were referred, as long as we saw one particular doctor, we were okay. She was the one who referred Alyssa and then expedited her case to get us seen quicker, both of which I was very grateful for.
We had had to see another doctor there one day when I knew Alyssa was ill (no choice on who to see obviously) who told me I was over-reacting, it was a virus and she was fine…. he didn’t even take her temperature and I’m sorry but I think it’s about time Doctor’s actually paid attention to a mother’s instincts. Sure enough that night, I was ringing 111 because my child had a temperature over 40 and had febrile convulsions amongst other things and it turned out she had tonsillitis yet again along with a double ear and double eye infection… but don’t worry, I was just overreacting.
Back in February this year, nearly 4 years into sleep deprivation, the whole time a single parent and with no surgery date in site, I cracked. I was so tired that it felt like more than tired. I ached, I had a sore throat on and off, wasn’t sleeping well anyway when I did get the chance to sleep and went to the doctor. I had a shoulder problem as well, so discussed that with the doctor first who prescribed something and tried to say goodbye. Bare in mind, I had already spoken to the doctor on the phone that morning and she’d requested I come in for BOTH my problems.
I started to tell her about feeling more than just tired and that I knew my body and it didn’t feel right anymore. I was about to go into more detail as the tears started spilling down my cheeks and she (the doctor who had helped Alyssa so much) turned to me and said, “Well it is tiring being a mum, let alone a single mum. It’s tough. Maybe you should try losing some weight. Anyway, this is only a ten minute appointment and we’ve used that up so I need to see the next patient now.” That was it. So I left the room, tears spilling faster down my face, staff staring at me and left… and haven’t been back since. Had she looked at my file, she would have seen I already had been losing weight and that I’d struggled thanks to my thyroid condition.
What really got me though was the apparent lack of compassion. I get that each patient is allocated only 10 minutes but if that’s the case, why have I sometimes been sat waiting over an hour for my appointment because they were over-running. Could she not have spared 5 minutes to take my concerns seriously instead of just making me feel like a fat, over-emotional failure? Was I seriously just another number in a line of robots? No one likes to feel like they don’t matter.
The final, I suppose shocking (though shouldn’t be after everything else) act from this surgery came just this week. 10 days ago, Alyssa finally had her surgery. She did amazingly well for the first 3 days and then started to go downhill, until on day 5 she’d gone more than 24 hours with no medicine and about 50ml of fluids because she simply wouldn’t take them no matter what I did. She even refused ice lollies! She was also incredibly lethargic and hard to rouse and I started to panic. It was only 5pm and I knew the doctor’s surgery was open for about 45 minutes or so and we were less than a minutes drive away.
I rang the number to ask for help, as per the instructions on our discharge papers, and was told “It’s too late to see or speak to a doctor now. It’s nearly the end of the day. If you want help you’ll have to go to A&E or call us back at 8am tomorrow morning for an appointment.” At which point it would have been 48 hours of no fluids or medication for my child. I hung up the phone and tears spilled down my cheeks after days of no sleep and worry, looking after my little girl who was obviously in so much pain. I just couldn’t believe it. I did in fact go to Accident and Emergency who admitted us to the children’s Kingfisher Ward who, just as they had been on the day of surgery, were incredible and amazed me with their ability to make my little girl feel better and even laugh. Thank God for them!
As I said at the beginning, I love our NHS. My mother was a Community Night Sister and we have a matron, admissions officer, nurses and all sorts in the family. My beloved Nanny was even receptionist at Poole Hospital for years and years. I have a lot of respect for them and the amazing work that they do. However, surgeries like the one my family and I are forced to use are giving the NHS a bad name. I don’t know if they’ve lost their heart, they never had it to begin with, are worn down or simply don’t care, but it’s just not on.
There is no real point to this post, other than to let it all out in that word vomit way that I do. I don’t think it’s right for a doctor, the nurses, the receptionist staff or anyone part a local doctor’s surgery to make a patient feel bad about themselves or like they can’t call them for help or advice. However, that’s what ours has done. As I said we have no choice about being part of it – yes you don’t technically have to be in a catchment area of a surgery to be part of it these days, but it is down to the discretion of the surgery you ask and we have asked and they have all said no. So we have no choice. We’re stuck with a surgery that doesn’t seem to care and makes us feel like we’re bothering them when we reach out for help.
This ticket number doesn’t like it.