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Making patients wait two weeks for an appointment gives them new sticks to beat us with



A very large part of me doesn’t give a monkey’s that patients may soon have to wait two weeks for a routine appointment.

After all, it doesn’t really matter whether most of the wading-through-treacle torture laughably known as ‘my job’ is deferred two weeks or two months – that patient’s cardiovascular risk isn’t going to change on a daily basis, is it, even if the guidance on treating it does.

Besides, patients who really want to be seen within a fortnight usually find ways to do so. And if you don’t believe me, ask the mum of the child I’ve just seen during my day duty surgery.

She was able to be very specific about the exact onset of her son’s vomiting – because it started while, coincidentally, she happened to be standing in the waiting room to collect her repeat prescription, around thirty seconds before she managed to persuade the receptionist to usher them in to see me.

We should care about patients having to wait two weeks, though. Because the perceived ‘delay’ in being seen for their terrible toenails/horrendous headaches/godawful GORD et al means that patients will have a whole load of new sticks to beat us with. Specifically, the following new entitlements:

1 To spend the first five minutes moaning about how it would be easier to get an audience with the Pope etc etc while remaining blissfully ignorant of the irony that they’re frittering away 50% of the very thing they’re insisting is so important to them.

2 To have completely recovered from whatever it was they booked the consultation for but to attend anyway because, well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

3 To have put the two-week delay to good use by developing a number of other symptoms which are in no way connected to the original reason for booking the appointment, which is still there, by the way, but worse.

4 To blackmail us into agreeing to that inappropriate request for an X-ray/scan/antibiotic/referral on the basis that it’s harder for us to deliver a ‘get stuffed’ that has been two weeks in the making.

So, for my sake, I’m going to sort out our access. Just as soon as I’ve sorted out a small pile of sick in the waiting room.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.