“I left my local doctor’s surgery fit to burst last week. I’d had a telephone consultation with another doctor that didn’t help at all, so I’d waited weeks to get a face to face appointment about the almost constant cramp in my legs.
“When I walked into the room, I spoke to him for about a minute before his phone rang. I then had to sit through eight of my allotted 10 minutes listening to him dealing with someone else’s problem. When I did finally get his attention, all I got was: ‘I don’t know what’s wrong. Why don’t you try diet and exercise? I’m so busy, I must get on.’
“I was made to feel guilty for wasting his time with what he obviously thinks is a trivial problem, but it’s not trivial to me. Before this pain started, I was out walking every day. Now I’m in almost constant pain, can hardly move, and am finding it hard to sleep at night.
“I know they’re busy, dealing with this virus and everything, but the numbers are going down, so surely he could spare me some attention? I feel worse now than I did before seeing a doctor to try to get ‘better’!
“It is unfortunate when one patient has to overhear a telephone conversation between a doctor and another patient – that does sound frustrating. And you are in pain and struggling to sleep, which must in itself be impacting you.
“But remember this isn’t all the doctor’s fault. These are very difficult times for GP practices, and most doctors are under tremendous pressure to cope. Even in non-Covid times, they have to deal with a demanding workload. Obviously, some cope better than others, but please remember they are only human.
“I don’t know what caused the doctor to be so off-hand with you; perhaps the call was a difficult one, or he was having a bad day, or perhaps that’s just his normal manner! Nonetheless, you do deserve to feel you’ve had a proper conversation about your symptoms – so make another appointment. You don’t necessarily have to see the same doctor – you could ask to see a different one if you think that would help.
“Don’t leave the surgery until you’ve fully explained your problem and got a satisfactory reply – the doctor may still not have answers for you, but should be able to make sensible suggestions. ‘Diet and exercise’ might indeed be helpful – but you at least need advice on what diet and what exercise that is, as the wrong ones could make things worse.
“If they do give you advice and your pain doesn’t improve after following it, don’t give up. Ask to speak to them – or an alternative doctor – again. Yes, they’re busy right now, and probably can’t cope with trivial matters that could be easily self-managed, but constant pain does not fall into that category. You need medical help and advice, and you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for asking for it.”
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.