Sandra Dick: Feeling sick? Don’t call the doctor

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HEART pumping like crazy? Blood pressure through the roof? Maybe you’re in a sweat, head ready to explode, fighting the urge to punch the wall and swear at the cat?

Fear not, you’ll just be suffering from an extreme bout of “hanging on the phone to the doctors’ surgery-itis”.

This is a deadly serious condition. Untreated, it can result in wanting to throw the phone out of the window, driving sufferers to admit defeat and search instead for some hocus pocus cure of their own. Even more serious, some head straight to A&E where staff are busy saving lives and really don’t want to see your fungal infection or hear about your sore back.

What surprised me most about the Evening News’ research, which revealed it can take up to 15 minutes to get through to some local surgeries, was that it actually was only 15 minutes. And, remember, getting through is no guarantee of getting an appointment.

I still fizz at the time an elderly relative finally made contact with her surgery then waited so long for the triage nurse to ring back and quiz her on how sick she was, that there were no appointments left. “Try again tomorrow” was the woeful suggestion.

My own dealings with that surgery ended after I arrived with one healthy child for a follow-up appointment and asked if the GP would instead see my asthmatic toddler as he struggled to breathe. ‘No,’ was the terse response, something that kept my blood boiling as I later sat by his hospital bed.

Dr Dean Marshall, former chair of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GPs committee, whose own surgery was among the poorest performers in the Evening News probe, argues the problem is down to funding cuts in primary care and extra demand on surgeries.

But how difficult or expensive would it be for surgeries to operate a voicemail system, text message or provide e-mail appointment requests? It is 2013 after all.

I now have an amazing surgery where calling for an appointment could not be easier, proof there are still some that put patients first. As for everyone else left hanging on the telephone – my only advice is stay calm and keep taking the tablets.