Have you considered going private?

MONDAY

8.00am precisely: Phone GP. Engaged.

8.01am-8.59am: Repeatedly phone GP every few minutes. Always engaged.

9.00am precisely: Phone GP. Receptionist answers immediately.

“I’d like to make an appointment please.” “All appointments are taken today. Please try again tomorrow between 8 and 9.” “OK, thanks.”

TUESDAY

8.00am precisely: Phone GP. Engaged.

8.01am-8.59am: Repeatedly phone GP every few minutes. Always engaged.

9.00am precisely: Phone GP. Receptionist answers immediately.

“I’d like to make an appointment please.” “All appointments are taken today. Please try again tomorrow between 8 and 9.” “OK, thanks.”

WEDNESDAY

8.00am precisely: Phone GP. Engaged.

8.01am-8.59am: Repeatedly phone GP every few minutes. Always engaged.

9.00am precisely: Phone GP. Receptionist answers immediately.

“I’d like to make an appointment please.” “All appointments are taken today. Please try again tomorrow between 8 and 9.” “I’ve been doing that for three days but I can never get through. Can I make an appointment for tomorrow or the day after or next week then?” “We only make appointments for the same day or for two weeks time.” “Two weeks is fine, it’s not urgent.” “We only make appointments between 8 and 9 and in any case all appointments for two weeks time are taken. Please try again tomorrow between 8 and 9.” “But what if you’re engaged again?” “Try again the next day. Goodbye.”

THURSDAY

8.00am precisely: Phone GP. Engaged.

8.01am-8.59am: Repeatedly phone GP every few minutes. Always engaged.

9.00am: Phone GP. Receptionist answers immediately.

“I’d like to make an appointment please.” “All appointments are taken today. Please try again tomorrow between 8 and 9.” “Can I have an appointment for two weeks time then please?” “There are none left. Try again tomorrow between 8 and 9.” “Are you telling me you have a finite number of appointments no matter what the demand?” “Try again tomorrow between 8 and 9” “But I’ve been trying for days, your phone is permanently engaged between 8 and 9 and it’s therefore impossible to see a Doctor. You are rationing what should be a universal service.” “All I can tell you, sir, is to try again tomorrow.” “But what if it’s an emergency? We’re just supposed to crawl away and die?” “In an emergency you can phone the out-of-hours service at Cardiff Royal Infirmary or go to the Accident & Emergency department at Heath hospital.” “No wonder A&E is overwhelmed! You are not providing the service you are legally bound to provide. YOU are meant to serve ME, not vice-versa. Your appointment system should be for patients’ convenience not the doctors’.” “I can only repeat that we make appointments over the phone between 8 and 9 in the morning. That is the system.” “This is ridiculous. I am being denied my right to see a Doctor. There are five, very well paid, GPs in the practice, housed in massive, luxurious, purpose-built new premises paid for by the public and you have an appointment system that seems to have been specifically designed to ensure they never have to see a patient!  Are they otherwise engaged at Bupa? Or on the fucking golf course? This is a Kafkaesque nightmare!”

Click. The receptionist ends the call.

9.30am-11am: Exhaustive, fiddly online research establishes what I must first do to make a complaint: contact the Practice Manager, who will “want to learn from your experience, to apologise if things have gone wrong, and will try to put things right locally if possible.” The only way to contact the Practice Manager is by the same phone number I’ve been ringing for an appointment.

11am: Phone GP. Receptionist answers immediately.

“Could I speak to the Practice Manager please?” “The Practice Manager is not available right now. What is the nature of your enquiry?”  “I’d like to make a complaint.” “Regarding what?” “If you don’t mind I’d rather speak to the person who handles complaints.” “What is your name please? Did you make a call earlier today?” “That’s irrelevant, I am a registered patient of the Practice and have the right to speak to the Practice Manager who is supposed to be easily accessible not ring-fenced by a disobliging, deliberately unhelpful jobsworth like you. When will the Practice Manager be available?” “Sir, you are raising your voice and being aggressive. I don’t have to take such abuse.”

Click. The receptionist ends the call. 

12-12.30pm: Dreary, confusing, contradictory NHS Wales websites eventually reveal the next step in the complaints procedure: contact the ‘Concerns Team’ at the Local Health Board, who “welcome your comments and are always pleased to hear from you.”

12.30pm: Phone Cardiff & Vale Health Board. Receptionist answers eventually. “Hullo, I’d like to make a complaint about my GP. I cannot get an appointment despite repeated attempts.” “Can I have your name please and the name of the General Practice?” “Well, I’d rather not give my name immediately as I’ve just been reading online about patients being struck off registers and blacklisted for making complaints. At this stage I only want to know the right person to speak to and go from there.” “I cannot do anything without your name, sir…”

Click. I end the call. I need to have a think.

FRIDAY

10.30pm: In a neighbour’s kitchen with some people and a bottle or two.

“…so this is what has happened to the NHS in Wales…Wales of all places, where the idea of a universal, free health service paid for collectively was born, where our ancestors struggled for generations to bring it into being…it has all been destroyed by creeping, stealthy privatisation, outsourcing and marketisation to line the pockets of the private health insurers, care corporations, pharmaceutical giants and armies of accountants, bureaucrats, lobbyists and consultants…it’s as if the last 70 years never happened and we’re back to a two-tier system where wealth buys health and the rest can drop dead…and we have a LABOUR government in Cardiff doing the Westminster Tories’ dirty work and betraying the NHS’s socialist principles of equal treatment and accessible provision, just like they’ve betrayed all the reasons they were founded…but of course they’re shit-hot on ecigarettes, smoking in hospital grounds, body piercing, tattoo parlours, strategic plans, impact assessments, art shows, fun-runs and mission statements…I’m beginning to rant, I’ll get my coat…”

MONDAY

11.15am: Phone Bupa. Receptionist answers immediately.

“Hullo, I’d like to make an appointment please. I’m not a member.” “Certainly sir, our basic health assessment costs £171. When would be the best time for you?”