Thursday, 13 January 2011

Need to see the doctor, do you? Receptionist says no.

Visiting your GP is never a good thing. It’s either because you have some strange disease that hours trawling the internet have failed to diagnose, or a bleak reminder of what might go wrong.

Routine blood tests which could one day reveal a whole heap of nasties; the lecture on the risk of diabetes and heart disease if our BMI or blood pressure goes on the rampage. Not to mention the review of contraception and that dreaded, three-yearly ordeal, the smear test, enough to send me scurrying off to bed with a hot water bottle and a cup of cocoa.

All the above are necessary evils which, like everyone else, I grin and bear in the faith that it will do me good to get my ailments diagnosed and my various bodily bits tried and tested. Yet, there is one more thing that puts me off picking up the phone and making that all-too-important appointment: The Receptionist.

She really scares me.

Not in a big, henchman kind of way, but in the way that I know that I am not going to get what I want whenever she picks up the phone. I recognise her voice straight away. Her hardened monotonous tone makes my heart sink as I realise that Lovely Other Receptionist is clearly not answering the phone that day.

The conversation usually starts like this:

Her: Medical Centre.
Me: Hello, can I make an appointment to see Dr X, please.
Her: (pause) Dr X does not have an appointment until two weeks on Tuesday. 11.15.
Me: Err, does she not have anything sooner, and first or last thing? I work, you see...
Her: (pause, huff, keyboard clatter) I can do two weeks today at 2.45.
Me: Does she have anything after five o’clock anytime?
Her: (tutting, pause) She has an appointment at 4.30 three weeks on Wednesday.

And so it goes on. The thing is, I know my GP will have an appointment sooner and at a more convenient time, because whenever I talk to Lovely Other Receptionist, the whole rigmarole tends to go a lot more smoothly.

Then, of course, last month I made a fatal error. I ran out of the pill and needed to see the nurse to get another prescription. Like, urgently.

I called the surgery.

Her: You will have to come to the walk-in clinic at 9.30 tomorrow.
Me: (stammering) Can I not see someone at the early morning clinic?
Her: No. Not for the pill.
Me: (humbled) I know this is all my fault, but is it not possible to see someone before 9 or after 5?
Her: (pause) You can see Dr Y next Friday at 5.15
Me: But I really need to see someone before then.
Her: Then you will have to come to the clinic tomorrow at 9.30. (Pregnant pause.) I need to answer other calls. Goodbye.

Needless to say, I ended up late for college after camping outside the Medical Centre from 8.30am the following morning in my quest to be seen first. Luckily Lovely Other Receptionist was on duty and took pity on me, assuring me that I would be seen first and giving me permission to get myself a coffee and bacon butty in the cafe next door before I froze to death.

Today, I had the joy of speaking to her again. I needed a repeat prescription.

Her: We don’t do repeat prescriptions over the phone.
Me: So what do I need to do?
Her: Come into the surgery to fill out a form.

With a sigh I hung up, and, five hours later, rocked up on my way to the gym. She was still there. With a chipper smile, I gave her my request and my details. She printed out a prescription and asked me to tick what it was I required. I obeyed. She looked at me. Coldly. 

Her: It will be ready in two days.
Me: Is that it?
Her: (smirking) Yes.

So, I had to go into the surgery to tick a piece of paper. She couldn’t do that over the phone. She needed me to physically mark that piece of paper. Myself.

I know what you are going to say: I need to be more organised and make my appointments in advance and just get over the fact that I need to go into the surgery in person to get a repeat prescription. Twice. And I accept this. But does she really have to be so difficult? Does getting a medical appointment have to be such an arduous task? Must I fear The Receptionist more than the woman who is going to stick some cold bit of metal up my nether regions once I get past her interrogation?

I just pray to God that the slight tickle at the back of my throat doesn’t turn out to be tonsillitis. Being ill I can cope with. But The Receptionist? She might just be too much for me to take. Read more by Shelly.