Helen Martin: Let us examine all of the NHS

The NHS's problems are more complex than just needing more GPs, argues Helen Martin. Pic: Katie Lee
The NHS's problems are more complex than just needing more GPs, argues Helen Martin. Pic: Katie Lee
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SO some patients wait up to four weeks for an appointment with their GP and one in six surgeries in the ­Lothians has had to turn away new patients.

Obviously more GPs and more surgeries would be one answer, but I suspect there’s a lot more to it than that.

Excuse my failure to understand the concept of waiting for an ­appointment to see a GP, but I have never made an appointment. In my 60 years, I have never belonged to a practice which didn’t have a daily open surgery where patients just wait their turn.

If I am ill enough or concerned enough to go to the GP in the first place, any doctor will do and whether it takes ten minutes or an hour in the waiting room, that’s small inconvenience for free health care on demand.

There is also a phone service 
“window” in the day which can be used for advice or asking for ­prescriptions, providing the practice has recently examined you for the same condition or you have a recurring problem noted in your records of which the doctor is aware. It saves time for both GP and patient.

Surely my practice cannot be unique. And surely no reasonable doctor could agree to a system forcing patients to make an appointment four weeks in advance? That’s enough time for an infection to worsen and become a major problem, or a month of unnecessary pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter ibuprofen or paracetamol, or in the best-case scenario, to completely ­recover from whatever caused them to ring in the first place.

One problem no-one seems to have mentioned in this appointment shortage crisis, is almost certainly the patients themselves.

All surgery queues are bunged full of people with passing colds and bugs who only need paracetamol, plenty of fluids and at most a day or two in bed. Being sick or having “the runs” is no reason to see a GP, unless the problem continues. If the average healthy adult doesn’t eat for a day or two it doesn’t matter – providing they keep their fluids up.

Getting rid of the “worried well” and the hypochondriacs who haunt surgeries with every minor ache or pain, bout of indigestion or any other affliction they’ve read about in some ghastly “true tales” magazine and now imagine they are suffering from, would be a major step forward as would giving short shrift to those ­patients who insist on only seeing their favourite doctor in a ­multi-GP practice. It’s not a hair salon, for goodness sake.

Some folk of course, just don’t like waiting in line. They prefer the perceived importance of their own appointment even if there isn’t a hope of it happening on time. They complain about not being able to see a doctor outside their working hours, which suggests either they are enslaved and can’t escape or they think their working time is more important than the doctor’s.

New contracts which let GPs off the hook for out-of-hours cover haven’t helped but we have the government to thank for that. On the other hand if they were still obliged to provide 24-hour cover it’s very likely we would have even fewer GPs.

A serious overhaul of the NHS in Scotland is certainly needed. But that overhaul should include patient behaviour and expectations as well as introducing the most effective organisation and appointment system to every practice. Increasing the number of GPs alone isn’t enough.

Wedding poll’s ring of silliness

EVEN having had two weddings, I have never bought a bridal magazine and on each occasion left the bouquets and stuff pretty much up to the suppliers. So whoever an Interflora poll spoke to when they discovered the average girl starts planning her wedding at age 13 and a quarter start at the age of six, it certainly wasn’t women like me.

Most of them seem to have picked the month, the menu, the hairdo, the music, the flowers and the honeymoon destination long before they meet the groom.

I’m trying to think of a gentle, understanding, empathetic way of putting this, but I think I’ll just have to settle for . . . airheads.

City posh waste plan is rubbish

WE’VE just got used to the two kitchen caddies, four bins and two bags for refuse and now we hear a new, simpler system of rubbish recycling is on the way.

Fair enough, if anything one bin and one box will probably cost less.

But apparently the city is also going to invest in bins with weight sensors – which are capable of alerting bin men when they need to be emptied – and fitted with noise dampening insulation mats so that the sound of rubbish being dumped in them doesn’t offend.

This seems like an unnecessary luxury when the city is facing a financial black hole in its budget, a road network littered with craters, and serious problems providing school places.

Could we instead just concentrate on the essentials in life and forget rubbish ideas such as these smart waste bins?

Farage is a casanova?!

WHY is it the most unlikely men turn out to be womanisers, particularly in politics? Nigel Farage? Significantly less appealing to most women than Paul Potts in a onesie.