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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

Yesterday I was feeling slightly under the weather, and it being a Monday (and me being still dedicatedly off the booze) I decided that I must definitely have some strain of bird flu, Ebola or SARS, or one of the many things that are definitely going to kill us all. The only thing for it, I reasoned on the bus on the way to work (and I had a lot of time to reason, what with the traffic and the tube strike), was to go to a doctor and get some yummy scrummy antibiotics.

I’m not registered with a doctor in the UK yet, being as I am a fantastically healthy person who doesn’t usually succumb to anything worse than a cold or an occasional bout of the rampaging vomits. Therefore, up until yesterday I had never felt the need to register with a doctor, because I hate those questionnaires you have to fill out, and the resulting monthly reminders for smear tests that the UK health system is so totally obsessed by.

I thought the easiest thing to do would be to register with the surgery He Who Only… already attends, and so I got the number off him and rang the kindly ladies, who asked for my postcode, and then sharply informed me I wasn’t in their catchment area before immediately hanging up. I’m not one easily put off, so the next business I did was to google my postcode with the word “GP” before it, and I found another number, this one even closer to our Nest O’Love. I called them, was put on hold, held on for five minutes, asked to register and was then sharply informed that they weren’t taking new patients and told to call the Find A Doctor Service, with the number barked at me once before they immediately hung up.

I shrugged, and dialled the number. It was out of service.

I shrugged again, and dialled the NHS Direct line. The man down the phone told me to call the Hackney Council services, as they would find me a doctor who would be forced to put me on their books, regardless of whether or not they were taking new patients. He gave me a number. I dialled it. It was out of service.

I returned to my good friend Google and tried again. This time I was searching for the right number for Hackney Council services. Their Find A Doctor site lists two phone numbers, but warns that these lines can be quite busy. I called one line. It was engaged. I called the other line. It was engaged.

I repeated this procedure for the next half an hour, almost non-stop. Once, I even got through, but accidentally hung up and redialled because once I’ve found a repetitious routine, it’s hard to break the habit. Eventually I spoke to a man who gave me the number of the surgery who had said they weren’t taking new patients. I told him this, heard him shrug, and he gave me two more numbers of other surgeries, telling me that if none of them would take me, I’d have to call him back again, and they’d put me on a list, which could take up to 10 working days.

I called the first surgery. They weren’t taking new patients.

I called the second surgery. They put me on hold. I held for 10 solid minutes before hanging up and redialling. They didn’t answer the phone. I redialled. They didn’t answer the phone. I redialled. They answered and put me on hold. Five minutes later I spoke to a lady, who gave me the hours for registering new patients – one hour blocked off on Monday to Thursday, with no weekend service and no time out of office hours. She also said that there was no way I could get an appointment with a doctor without registering first.

So the final conclusion of my telephone based adventure seems to be thus: I must take a half day off work in order to register with a doctor, who will then give me an appointment up to 7 working days (which don’t include Saturdays) following my registration. It’s a good thing I’m feeling so much better.


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