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The cure for the common cold? A two-week wait for an appointment



I’m not sure how you’d objectively measure something to ascertain whether it might just be ‘The Funniest Thing in the World, Ever’. But this surely comes close.

For a variety of reasons beyond anyone’s control, our practice and those nearby have been suffering severe appointment pressure lately. And the ‘You have to wait two weeks to see a GP’ headline, with an outraged member of the public obligingly commenting, ‘It’s outrageous’, has finally hit the local paper.

So far, so predictable. But here’s the funny bit. In the piece there was the following comment from a local bigwig: ‘It’s ridiculous. Some patients are having to wait so long that their symptoms have disappeared by the time they get to the doctor.’

That’s right. It’s worth saying that again, and savouring it. ‘Some patients are having to wait so long that their symptoms have disappeared by the time they get to the doctor.’

Now, I’m guessing, but I reckon that this comment was made without any trace of irony whatsoever. There’s no appreciation that all this appointment pressure would be relieved if the public realised that minor, self-limiting illness needs no input from the GP at all. No understanding that a health service based entirely on wants rather than needs is unsustainable. And no insight into how this sort of brainless indignation simply perpetuates the problem.

Which, on reflection, makes it probably not The Funniest Thing in the World, Ever. In fact, it’s not very funny at all.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at tonycopperfield@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield