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Getting a doctor's appointment

(54 Posts)
Antonia Sun 05-Nov-17 11:08:10

I have just moved to the UK (at the end of August) after 17 years living in France. I am finding myself very confused about the two health systems. For instance, I have pre diabetes and in France, had a blood test every three months, or whenever I requested one. Here I am told it will be 'near my birthday!' in other words once a year. In France there was a yearly appointment with a heart specialist, but when I asked about that the doctor just looked bemused and asked why I would want a heart specialist. At the moment I need to see a doctor and when I try to get an appointment, in a clinical practice where there are at least 8 doctors, I find there is nothing at all available for the next two weeks! I knew before we moved that the NHS wasn't great but I find it worse than I expected. What do people do here when they need a doctor? I want to see one soon, not in a couple of weeks. I will try a chemist instead.

henetha Sun 05-Nov-17 11:10:35

We have to be almost dead here before we can get a doctor's appointment. If we are slightly less than almost dead we are graciously granted a telephone call from the doctor, - which might happen within about a fortnight, with any luck.

MissAdventure Sun 05-Nov-17 11:12:22

You may be able to get an appointment with a 'prescribing nurse' at the gp practice. That's what I do, if I need to see someone within the next few days.

Antonia Sun 05-Nov-17 11:17:21

It seems that the practice here doesn't offer a call back service, although I know my daughter uses one in London. Nor can I see any mention of a prescribing nurse. The only thing left, it seems, will be to book an appointment with a private GP at the local private hospital who offers 15 minute appointments for £45. I strongly suspect that I might be seeing one of the doctors who works for the NHS in the local practice!

glammanana Sun 05-Nov-17 11:24:21

Don't you have a local Walk In Centre where you can wait to be seen,you may have to wait quite a while or not depending on the queue,most Hospitals near me have them or smaller units where you can have x-rays/blood tests etc.Please don't dismiss the UK NHS because when you have an emergency they are second to none.

Antonia Sun 05-Nov-17 11:34:25

Other people have told me glammanana that the emergency services are good and I have every confidence that they are. My gripe at the moment is just seeing a doctor, normally. Unfortunately there is no walk in centre in the town either.

Fennel Sun 05-Nov-17 11:40:14

Antonia so sorry to hear about your problems with the NHS. But you're making me worried now!
Like you, we're hoping to move back to the UK next Feb. For us it will be after 16 years in France, where we're really spoilt with excellent Health provision.
I've got various age-related conditions (heart, stomach ulcer etc) and am hoping for regular prescriptions as here.
I believe Health provision in the UK depends a lot on where you live. we'll be in Southend/Westcliff. We still have our NHS cards with the name of the local surgery/medical practice.
Please send me a PM if you can add more.

Pittcity Sun 05-Nov-17 11:40:14

We have to ring at 8am to get an appointment to see a doctor the same day. You have no choice of time or who you see.
I am told this is because people would book advance appointments and not turn up.
I agree that we should have regular checks for diabetes etc. as catching it early means we are less likely to end up in A&E.

glammanana Sun 05-Nov-17 11:51:39

At our local practice The Practice Nurse deals with all patients being treated for updates and tests regarding Diabetes and other problems that need regular checks she does keep a firm check on the patients and refers them to the Dr. in first instance if any thing un to ward crops up.
We also have the 8am system for appointments that are urgent and I have never been refused when I have rang up early to book to see a Dr.

Liz46 Sun 05-Nov-17 11:54:29

You have to be fit and strong to get an appointment with one of our GPs. Once I just gave up and went to bed and hoped for the best even though I was very poorly.

tessagee Sun 05-Nov-17 11:54:38

Antonia, welcome to the real world of NHS medicine. It's changed a lot in the years since you lived here and isn't likely to get better any time soon. There are just too many patients and not enough doctors.

Chewbacca Sun 05-Nov-17 11:55:05

Our GP practice has 8 "free appointments" a day for a population of 13,000, so if you phone as soon as their phone line opens at 08.00, you might get one of them. Trouble is that the line is engaged and by the time you get through, the appointments for that day have gone. You can book an appointment but the waiting time is currently 3 weeks. You can ask for a triage nurse to call you back to discuss your health problem and if she decides you need to see a GP, she can book an earlier appointment for you but the wait for the nurse to call you back is currently 2 or 3 days.

We used to have a system of regular appointments for diabetes clinics, breast checks, heart checks etc but that's stopped now and patients at our practice have to manage their own check ups via the general booking system. Needless to say, problems are going undetected because of the difficulty in actually getting an appointment.

Antonia Sun 05-Nov-17 12:05:10

Fennel I have sent you a pm. Thank you for all your replies. I think we have decided just to go down the route of booking a private GP when we need a doctor here. My daughter who lives in the same town doesn't have any trouble getting appointments for her 3 year old DD, so presumably children are prioritised. Maybe I just need to lie about my age and say I'm 4!

harrigran Sun 05-Nov-17 12:06:28

We have to ring at 8am to get an appointment but that will be 14 days on from the day you ring. We have no choice as to which doctor we see and there is absolutely no continuity of treatment.
It cost me thousands to see a doctor privately and to have a procedure which should have been done under the two week rule, had I been able to see a doctor in our practice.
Translators for those who do not speak English, no problem but if I have more than one query I have to make another appointment and wait two weeks to discuss it. The whole system is going to hell in a handcart.

cornergran Sun 05-Nov-17 12:07:56

I understand there are nurse led clinics in our surgery for things like diabetes, asthma and heart conditions. I wonder if there may be such a clinic in yours? Most surgeries do have ‘on the day’ appointments for urgent issues, possibly via a triage system. You may be unlucky with yours though. Yes, it is very different from the French system, even moving within the UK throws up huge differences. When we moved we went into the surgery at a quiet time and had a chat with the receptionist, asked her to explain the various systems, which did at least help with understanding if not speedy access. If there is a specific health issue worrying you then you could phone 111 for advice or as you say talk to a pharmacist. Most have a private room for these conversations and both 111 and a pharmacist will tell you if they think you should see a doctor. If they do I would suggest you tell your surgery you have been advised this is what you should do. I hope things settle for,you soon.

merlotgran Sun 05-Nov-17 12:14:00

We used to have a drop in centre in the village but that's gone now. When DH had a nasty, fast growing spot on the top of his head earlier this year I couldn't get an appointment for two weeks so I took him to the minor injuries unit six miles away and told them he'd banged his head!!

They were hot to trot, phoned the GP, got him an emergency appointment where he was given an urgent referral to a dermatologist.

Far from being harmless he had a squamous cell carcinoma which left a large and painful wound after it was all removed. He was still recovering from heart surgery at the time.

In the good old days our lovely, now retired, GP would have been straight round to see how he was getting on, the DN would have taken care of the daily change of dressings (I had to do it) and there would have been the feeling that he was being supported rather than abandoned.

Now wonder so many of us are relying on Dr. Google and A&E. angry

Greyduster Sun 05-Nov-17 12:38:13

We seem to be bucking the trend here; the last three times I have rung to make a non urgent appointment, I have been offered one on the same day - the last time within hours of the telephone call. You will always get a telephone consult if you can’t get an appointment. Of course, this could all come crashing down round our ears, but at the moment it’s working well. We do have a minor injuries walk in service at the local hospital, and a walk in eye clinic for emergencies.

goldengirl Sun 05-Nov-17 12:38:48

Getting a doctors appointment on the NHS normally is incredibly difficult in my neck of the woods. However I've had no problem recently as I had a swollen leg which triggered immediate action - and to my surprise continuity between the hospital and my GP; generally unheard of. The NHS is certainly good if a likely emergency is flagged up - though I wasn't the one doing the flagging I just wanted to find out what it was. Scary but reassuring at the same time.

Antonia Sun 05-Nov-17 12:54:13

Greyduster I am pleased to hear that you have good facilities where you live. It seems to be a bit of a postcode lottery though. I am in Harrogate, which has an ageing population, so maybe that is part of the problem. Just too many of us oldies. There doesn't seem to be any facility here for telephone consultations either, although I know my DD in London uses this service.

GrandmaMoira Sun 05-Nov-17 13:27:32

Where I am you can usually get an emergency appointment on the day by constantly redialling from 8 am. Other times I've gone to the surgery and told the receptionist my problem and she's slotted me in as an afternoon emergency. When it's urgent and I can't get an appointment (usually when I get cellulitis) I go to A&E, am triaged into the urgent care centre and get my antibiotics.
One thing that has disappeared is GPs coming out to people to ill to get to the surgery. The out of hours service either tells you there is nothing wrong or you should go to A&E - it seems a waste of time having it.

paddyann Sun 05-Nov-17 13:33:17

no problem seeing a GP here ,if you call before 9am you'll get a same day appointment ,if its later than that but an emergency they will fit you in at the end of the day .Other than that an appointment with a doctor of your choice is around a week sometimes 10 days ,if its for an ongoing problem waiting for a specific doctor a week isn't too long in my opinion .You can make your next appoinment before you leave the surgery if the GP has said to come back

maryeliza54 Sun 05-Nov-17 13:46:55

Its impossible to generalise not only between areas but between practices. I changed practices because my current one has a much better booking system. Do you have other practices in your area that you could check out. Also you have to take into account that the French system is much more expensive than the NHS.

maryeliza54 Sun 05-Nov-17 13:54:17

As for the pre- diabetes checks,every three months is frankly ridiculous. An annual check is standard practice both here and in the US. What really matters is following the advice re diet, life style etc. Also,if you see a GP privately, you will have to pay for the cost of a private prescription

maryeliza54 Sun 05-Nov-17 14:04:02

I meant to add it’s standard practice to be annual if you are at high risk of developing Diabetes

Antonia Sun 05-Nov-17 14:06:47

maryeliza54 I will look into a different practice, but as far as I know, each practice takes its patients from within a catchment area so I doubt if we would be eligible for a different one. I agree the French health service cost us more. We used to pay roughly €2000 a year into the system, for 2 of us, but that included all medical treatment including specialists and hospital stays, as well as all dental treatment and opticians. Also a lot of the money we paid upfront, such as for a GP consultation, was reimbursed though an insurance scheme. I realise that many British people would be unwilling or unable to pay for their healthcare in this way, but why not some kind of sliding means tested scheme? I don't mean like the American system, where they seem to have massive healthcare insurance costs, but something akin to the French system would surely be better than the UK system as it currently operates. (No pun intended there).