For the last year and a half, I have not been able to see a GP when I have needed to.
That is not an exaggeration. Not being able to get a GP appointment has been a huge source of stress for me. It has made me feel anxious that I am going to run out of medication and end up, quite likely, in a mental health crisis and at risk.
I have tried every method I can to get a GP appointment and to no avail. The practice at which I was registered (until today, when I signed up to GP At Hand) only allows you to book on a Monday morning for the week ahead. You can't book two or three weeks in advance, for example.
I have called many Mondays in a row at 8am and have not managed to get through on the phone for an hour and a half. By the time I have finally got through to a receptionist, all of the slots for that week have (of course) gone.
In these situations, the receptionists have told me to ring at 8am for a same-day 'emergency' appointment, even though my medical condition was not an emergency and did not require urgent medical attention just....medical attention at some point.
So in an attempt to get an appointment, I tried ringing at 8am on a weekday. I tried this many times and it was always the same situation; I did not get through on the phone for ages and when I did all of the same-day appointments were taken.
The receptionists then advised me to queue at the door on the same day. I feel this is incredibly unfair access: people who need same day 'emergency' GP appointments are not always well enough to queue outside before 8am.
How is everyone with a disability going to have equal access to appointments when the point of access is by queuing at the door at 7.40am? When I was having horrendous drowsiness as a side-effect of my quetiapine, waking up to get myself in the queue was extremely hard.
The first time I queued for an appointment I arrived at 7.50am. I was not early enough. I did not get an appointment. I cried at the reception desk.
The second time I queued I got there at 7.40am and I was sixth in the queue. I managed to get an appointment, but it was with a nurse prescriber. She couldn't give me a prescription for my medication without talking to a doctor, so I had to go away and come back later in the day when my prescription had been signed off.
Not being able to see a GP when I am on two prescribed medications and one medication that has not yet been released to my GP by my psychiatrist has been a huge source of stress for me.
The NHS is being gradually starved of funds by this Tory government: a government that is not providing access to health and social care for those who need it, or supporting vulnerable people.
Yesterday I signed up to GP At Hand. It's an online NHS GP that is currently being trialled in London. Appointments with a GP happen over the phone or video chat. I was able to get an appointment at 7pm for 9.30pm tonight. I will write a post soon about how that goes.
Can you relate to my struggle to get a GP appointment? How has it affected your mental health?