Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The GP System Rant

This is a bit of a selfish blog post; I'm writing it to get my frustrations out with little to no concern of whether it's appropriate to everyone or even if anyone else will care.
So, they have this habit in Psychiatric Hospitals. When it suits them they tell us to think about being in the community. What I mean by this is that if you won't get out of bed for groups they'll use the line "if you were in the community..." But then when that line doesn't fit with policy and safety issues it isn't used. For example, if I were in the community I would have my Blackberry on charge beside me and not a Samsung and there'd be razors in my bathroom and not locked behind two doors.
My point is, if we were in the Community and we needed to see the GP we would call up (granted it's sometimes a joke making an appointment and you're often left hoping that you're still ill in a week's time when you've managed to book the appointment for) and if it were deemed serious enough you'd be seen that same day. But when you're sectioned or at least, when you're in the Hospital I'm in... That's not the way it works. I remember when I first came and any physical issues were just taken to a Ward Doctor (the one below your Consultant) and they'd prescribe relevant treatment. But then there was a few problems with the Doctor not knowing what to do since it's not their specialism or over-reacting and sending you to A&E or not reacting and telling you you're fine and then you get really poorly. So, without asking our opinion on the matter (a regular occurrence, it seems) we were all asked to register with the local GP. This is where the rant gets going! So after we were all registered these were the steps taken to get a GP appointment:

1. Ask a Nurse to inform the Ward Doctor you need one
2. Tell the Ward Doctor what the problem is
3. Ward Doctor tells the nursing staff you need an appointment
4. Referral made to Medical Secretary upstairs
5. Referrals sent to GP (first come, first serve basis)
6. Appointments sent back to Medical Secretary for a Tuesday afternoon ONLY
7. Medical Secretary sends list of appointments to wards
8. Staff have to check ward e'mails and then assign escorts for patients to go to the GP

My point isn't just the amount of steps we go through to receive medical attention, it's the fact that all of the referrals have to be in by Monday because the only time we're allowed appointments is on a Tuesday afternoon and those slots are for the entire hospital. Staff try the argument that if it's an emergency you'll be taken to Hospital and A&E but it's not really the point. What if you notice on Wednesday that you have symptoms of a UTI? By the time you get a GP appointment (and it's not guaranteed you will be seen the next Tuesday because anyone still on the list from the previous week will  be seen first) the infection could be worse and require different treatment.
So, I raised the issue in our Involvement Meeting with management. I said we'd all like the system to be changed so that we tell staff we need an appointment, they check why (for those who go to the GP just for the sake of it) and then book the next available appointment based on what the complaint is.
Instead, I found out today that they've just added a whole new policy into it all! Now, our Ward Doctors can't even get advice from the GP over the telephone unless it's a Tuesday and between 4:30 and 5pm! You ask them to make something better and it just gets worse! And surely this has got to be wrong in terms of Human Rights and discrimination. Why should we, as patients in a Psychiatric Hospital, have such little chance of receiving the same medical care as those in the community?