Firstly, I must apologise for my lack of blogging in recent weeks. There are no excuses! Secondly, this blog article is something I wrote after hearing on the news that some patients have been, and are, being struck off for merely complaining. As you know, dear reader, I am not one to shy away from getting on my ‘soap box’ about news articles or opinions from others that cause controversy.
General Practitioners, or GP’s, we should all have one. We either visit them once in a blue moon, or we visit them on a very regular basis like me!
In this country doctors undergo years of training. This training does not stop after they have qualified as doctors after successfully completing a medical degree. A medical degree is either 5 or 6 years in duration, the 6 year degrees are usually intercalcalated (ie they also do a BSc or BMedSci) which allow the doctor to carry out research at a later date if they so wish. After the 5 or 6 years they will do 2 Foundation Years (FY1 and FY2) within a hospital environment before launching into Specialism training, this training will depend entirely on what they are choosing as their specialist area (ie gastroenterolgy or surgery). Even when they reach the dizzy height of Consultant they will continue to learn new techniques as well as teach others at the beginning of their medical careers.
My sister, who qualified as a doctor in 2010, is now an FY2. In late Summer 2012 she will begin her specialist training, her chosen path will be anesthetics and Intensive Care medicine. Both of which are quite intense and come with a lot of responsibility.
Anyway, I digress. GP’s do their medical degrees followed by their Foundation Years followed by 3-5 years of General Practioner training. In total a GP will have had (if they have done a 6 year degree) around 13 years of medical training followed by regular courses they will do to enhance their skills as doctors.
A GP must be able to diagnose illnesses competently as well as potential spot things like child abuse; domestic violence; drug/substance misuse to name but a few. GP’s are allowed to carry out minor surgical procedures such as wart freezing. They are also required to refer a patient to the correct Consultant (Specialist) or service on either a standard referral, or an emergency if the situation warrants this. GP surgeries usually have at least 3 doctors and at least 1 nurse as well as countless admin staff.
To register with a GP you will need to have identification as well as proof of address. Once your address is logged on their system a new NHS card will be sent out to you. Surgeries will usually have an emergency appointment system as well as the normal one where you can book up to 4 weeks in advance to see a particular doctor. All surgeries will be linked to an Out of Hours service, in some cities/towns these will be located at a hospital and others where the surgery is based on a rural area then the GP may come to you.
I have read an article in the Daily Mail, GPs ban patients just for daring to complain: Entire families unfairly removed
from practices following trivial disagreements
I find this absolutely disgusting. Patients have every right to complain if they feel that something has gone wrong or they feel that the way they have been treated is appalling. Some of the comments at the bottom of the article are striking to read, it is unethical but I do know that this is going on. I have known a friend who was struck off of her surgery’s list simply for complaining that the doctor asked her not to bring her children with her next time, she merely spoke to the Practice Manager who appeared sympathetic. However, around 10 days later she received a letter from the very same Practice Manager informing her that she had been taken off of the practice list. This does not just happen to ‘healthy’ people, the aforementioned article actually states the various mistakes that have been made. There are also links to other stories related to this matter. Needless to say that it is horrid hearing people having such vindictive behaviour shown to them after making a comment or complanint.
Personally, I have experienced horrific misdiagnosis by 2 different GP’s. I remember feeling so small for complaining, the last GP I had did not seem to think I needed anything more than codeine for pain. I am now on Butrans (buprenorphine patches) and Oramorph as breakthrough pain relief for severe back pain.
It is your right, as a patient, to complain; question a decision/diagnosis; ask for a referral; be examined with a same sex chaperone; see a doctor on an emergency basis and many other rights!
You absolutely have every right to complain, without prejudice, if you feel that you have not had the right treatment or have not been spoken to in an appropriate manner. You should not be struck of the surgery’s list if you do make a complaint.
My advice to you is to check out http://www.pals.nhs.uk PALS is also known as the Patients Advice and Liason Service. They not only give advice and support but they can also assist with any complaints you may have about any NHS service.
You can change your GP at any time, you should not be bullied out of the surgery you are at now. If you do have see the GP frequently, build a good relationship with them if you can but do not be afraid to ask them questions about any treatment you are about to start!
Do not be afraid to voice your concerns. Speak up for yourself, if you cannot then get someone to do it for you.
For now, dear reader, keep safe and keep smiling.