On Friday, I completely disregarded my GPs advice. Why? Because it was a Friday night, and I didn’t want to spend my Friday night in Accident & Emergency with the very possible chance of being admitted.
There are on occasions, times where I cannot praise the NHS more, especially when it has come down to my mental health illnesses. My GP is one of the best GPs I have ever had and the team she works with are also fantastic. But they have their limitations, and on occasions, like the Friday just gone, I just don’t have the energy to deal with all of the red tape that I find myself wrapped in. So I ignored my GPs advice.
My GP surgery opens at 7am and closes at 7pm on most days of the week. I have never had a problem getting a same day GP appointment. They do blood tests, antenatal, post-natal, asthma clinic, and the like in house (my previous GP made you go to the hospital where you had to wait for a minimum of an hour and a half for a simple blood test), so unless I need to see a consultant or specialist or I need some sort of imaging, then my GP is a one stop shop. It’s great. Unless it’s the weekend.
You see, last May, I found myself in the hospital with suspected appendicitis. I had a GP appointment for that day (3 hours after I called them) to be seen by the doctor, but it escalated quickly and well, I then spent three days in the hospital. After 3 days my symptoms stopped and the surgical team decided I was ok and could go home but with strict instructions to come back should it happen again.
3 weeks later it happened again. After having spent 3 days in hospital for pretty much no reason, I didn’t want to go back, after all someone else probably needed that hospital bed more than I did. So I called my GP who consulted over the phone and then told me to come in the next morning to be seen before her first patient. (Is she good or what?!)
We decided that unless my symptoms became very serious (vomiting, high temperature with shivering) then I could manage without going back to the hospital and if it occurred to telephone her again.
It happened again. 6 hours later it was fine.
Then again, and then again. All at inappropriate times, night out with The Husband for anniversary dinner, rare trip to the cinema, etc.
No rhyme or reason, just random times, normally afternoon or evening, I’d suddenly be doubled over in excruciating pain, The Husband asking if he should call an ambulance, me refusing.
After the fifth time, I went back to the GP, who agreed that it definitely was not normal and needed investigation and who instructed me to see a doctor straight away if it happened again. Either come into the surgery, or go to urgent care and Accident and Emergency if it’s out of hours, so that they could catch this problem “in the act” thus enabling them to resolve it promptly.
You see, the NHS will not perform surgery (which my GP thinks will be needed) unless it has several test results confirming the doctors diagnosis. Which means that I have to have quite a few tests done, and I have to wait for appointments to be scheduled.
First up, blood. Easy enough. So easy in fact, that it’s already done and I have the lovely bruise to show for it.
Second, an ultrasound, which takes time. Once that’s done if it’s inconclusive (which apparently it is more often than not) then an MRI and endoscopy (dependent on whether the GP is having a good or bad day, LOL) which is more time. You’re looking at a minimum of 6 weeks, followed by a week for results, followed by another 6 weeks and so on.
This, people, is where the NHS frustrates me. Accident and Emergency is for that purpose exactly. My condition is not an accident and very likely not an emergency (unless I turn yellow or have febrile convulsions). In the time it’s taken for me to have the blood test, and await results, I’ve had what the GP calls a “flare”. I could have gone to Accident and Emergency, yes, but it was a Friday night. Ever tried getting an ultrasound or MRI on a Friday night? Unless it’s a very real emergency, it doesn’t happen, mainly because the department staff required for ultrasounds and MRIs are not available as those departments are core hour departments. In cases where it’s a serious emergency, radiographers need bleeping, they’re on call. Routine diagnostics wait until the next working day, unless your hospital is lucky enough to have the staff and budgets to open them on weekends.
It’s tricky, waiting for tests means I experience more “flares” which increases my risk of having to go to the hospital as an emergency patient. However my condition isn’t an emergency or accident (yet), so by going to the hospital during a flare up as suggested by my GP, takes away the time of a doctor from someone else who may need it more than I do.
I am learning to become functional when I have these “flares”, simply because I cannot just pop down to A&E or the GP at such short notice at 7pm in the evening. I refuse to take Emma to hospital anyway because I don’t want to put her health at risk. I think my pain tolerance has improved too, because I managed to do Emma’s bath-time during the last episode rather than curling up into a non-functional ball. I am hoping that these diagnostic tests are quick, but I am not optimistic, because the NHS is stretched beyond it’s means as it is.
But more than anything, I am hoping that my next flare up happens at a suitable time, like say a Monday at 2pm, when The Husband is at home and I happen to be on a train and the next stop is the one for the hospital. Ha! As if i’d ever be that lucky.
The one thing that I hope definitely happens? That the diagnostic scans show a positive diagnosis before I become very unwell and have to have emergency surgery, because that would suck.
What I wouldn’t give to have a private healthcare coverage scheme right now, sadly £70 a month is a luxury I can’t afford right now.
Whilst I cannot fault my GP and her team, or the NHS staff who work hard to fix me when I am sick, I cannot help but be frustrated by how long things can take to resolve. I cannot help but also be frustrated by the fact that if I had a spare £70 a month then I wouldn’t have to wait at all.
Let’s just hope it’s resolved before my liver begins to fail.
I quite like my liver.