Dharani Yerrakalva: “I know it’s not your fault doctor, but …”

This week I have dealt with more consultations starting with what I call, “I know it’s not your fault doctor, but…” openings than not. My patients can’t ever get an appointment to see me, they tell me. They phone every morning at 8am expectantly, hoping to win the same-day-appointment lottery. Although British people famously like to queue, this is assuredly one of the most hated queues that they find themselves waiting in. They tell me that they do this for weeks sometimes before they “strike it rich” and are offered a face to face meeting with me.

Since when did I become a prize?

“Well, I know it’s not your fault doctor, but do you know how many times I had to ring to try and see you?” This is how it usually starts.  And I sigh to myself, thinking that one of our precious 10 minutes together has already gone.

I usually advise patients to write letters to those with more influence over these matters. However, I do wonder if or when our practice manager or local MP will work out that I am the one accountable for their increased workloads, and whether one of them will knock at my door some day and politely ask me to stop.

But while I am telling my patients to shout louder to be heard, are they? Or are they assuming that someone else has noticed, or that someone else is shouting for them?

“Well, what are you doing about it?” a patient recently asked me. Incidentally, he didn’t start with “I know it’s not your fault.”

“Have you spoken to our MP?” he continued.

And then I realise. I need to be part of the change, otherwise I’m part of the problem.

Dharani Yerrakalva is an academic general practitioner in Cambridge.

Competing interests: none declared

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