At the end of 2011 I received a letter from my GP practice to say they would no long be operating "today's work today" so no more calling up in the morning to get an appointment on the day. Instead you call, get advised a GP will call you back, then you go in if required. You can book an appointment in advance, though currently if you want any appointment in under 2 - 3 weeks you're unlucky.
So much for the sustainability of the "Advanced Access" program....
Despite over a decade of modernisation efforts in the NHS, not only is access an issue, but the sheer waste of processes is still in action. It's hard to be forgiving of a primary care practice who say they are overworked when they duplicate processes and add in bureaucracy.
For example, I need two armfuls of vaccinations for a camping trip to Africa later this year. I called the practice to book an appt with the travel clinic to be told the nurse who ran the clinic was on holiday. No, there is no back up when she is away. No I couldn't book an appt for when she got back (third week of July) as I first had to go in and collect a questionnaire. When I've completed it I then have to take it back in to them. (I learnt afterwards, through my own efforts that this form is available online but this was never mentioned to me.). No, I can't book an appt for the vaccinations but I can book an appt for a nurse assessment, after I've completed the form and after she's read it. After that I can have the vaccinations.
I lost the will to live just listening to the process. I work. I can't afford to take that much time off for 4 or more visits to the practice, at times that suit only suit them and their staff holidays.
The receptionist told me I should try the MASTA private travel clinic in Oxford. So I did.
Within an hour I had completed the online form, been called back by a nurse, had a 30 minute telephone consultation, had the yellow fever medical waiver organised (it arrived in the post 2 working days later) and had an appt to go in and get my vaccinations at a place that suited me on a date and time that suited by schedule. [I wondered why NHS Direct couldn't offer this service?]
Yes, I had to pay, but using what I bill for my time, going private in this case cost 25% of the total cost the NHS would have been for me in lost time and travel costs.
I'd like to balance my concern about primary care with the stunning service I've received from Stoke Mandeville Hospital. I've had to go through two diagnostic treatments in the last month. The first I chose my time to go in and the second I had to rearrange due to illness and chose a time and date to suit my schedule. Both times I packed a flask, book and prepared to wait. Both times I was called in before I even had time to sit down. Quick. Efficient. Perfect.