Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Going to the Doctor.

I know I did a post on Thinking Aloud yesterday, but I woke up thinking about something this morning, so you get an extra one.

When I was young, my Mum used to take me to the doctor. But I had to be quite bad before she went that far. Not that we had to pay anything, because we had the NHS. That had come into being five years before I was born, and the working-class people where I lived in London were incredibly grateful for it. So my Mum would not bother a doctor with anything trivial, as she had too much respect for this new service.

The system was very different back then. No need to telephone for an appointment, just turn up for morning or evening surgery, and wait your turn. Most people where I lived didn’t have a telephone anyway, so appointments wouldn’t have worked. We sat on long benches around the walls of the waiting room. The first person to arrive sat closest to the door leading through to the doctor, and everyone took their place in turn, with not a thought of queue-jumping.

The only distraction provided for those waiting was a stack of old magazines piled on a small table in the centre of the room. I saw my first ever copies of National Geographic, along with the familiar Reader’s Digest, and some newspapers left behind by anyone who had already left. There were no screens offering TV or recorded messages, and definitely no toys for the amusement of children. We were expected to behave, and we did.

Nobody talked to each other either, even though many of the faces were familiar, and some of those in the waiting room were well-known to us. It wasn’t done to discuss your ailments in that situation, or to ask anyone else why they were there to see the doctor. When it got to our turn, the doctor opened the door and we walked in. There was no calling-out of our name, and no mention of whether or not he knew us. His office was like a study, and he sat at his desk with a serious demeanour. Once he had heard the story, and perhaps made some examination, he would either tell us what to do, or give out a prescription for the necessary medication, which was also free then.

Everyone called him ‘Doctor’, even though his name was on a sign on his desk. He was better educated than anyone we knew, and older than my Mum, and most of the others in the waiting room. His word was never challenged or questioned, and his advice or treatment was always acted upon. He was a doctor, so that was enough for us. We looked on him with some reverence, and gave him respect, and our best manners at all times. In return, he was polite, caring, and efficient. He was also rather condescending and superior, but I didn’t realise that at the time. Once he had finished with us, profuse thanks were in order, and even when I was still very young, I was taught to say “Thank you, doctor”, before we left his consulting room.

Things are very different now.

Getting an appointment can be exceptionally difficult in some areas of Britain, especially in the big cities. Most doctor’s surgeries have three or four doctors working there, to cope with the increased workload. They also employ skilled nurses to deal with minor injuries and illnesses, as well as technicians to take blood, or receive samples. At our local doctor’s we no longer have to go anywhere else to collect drugs or medicines, as they have a pharmacy attached, operated by three full-time staff. You can even get minor surgical procedures done there, which saves travelling to the hospital like we used to have to. In my opinion, the expansion of such facilities into larger clinics has been a positive move, and the doctors seem to be younger and more dedicated too.

But the most noticeable change has been in the attitude of the patients. Despite the provision of toys and games, children run around like crazy all over the place. Their parents stare into their phones, generally ignoring the bad behaviour. And people argue. They shout at the receptionists, complain that they haven’t bee seen quick enough, and debate their treatment with the doctor, based on some rubbish they have read on Facebook, or looked up online.

Despite being able to telephone, or book an appointment time using the Internet, many still just walk in and expect to be seen immediately. The last sixty years have imbued the people of this country with a sense of entitlement, and a worrying arrogance. They threaten staff, complain to local authorities, and take to Social Media to moan about the service at the local doctor’s.

They should think themselves lucky that we have such a system funded my small National Insurance payments, and backed up by huge amounts of public money. They are not old enough to remember a time when you queued patiently, sometimes for hours, and gave respect to the people who were treating you.

My conclusion is that if those people can get to the doctor’s just to be rude and horrible, they are not sick enough to be there in the first place.

66 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

    1. Thanks, Abbi. I know nothing at all about the health care in SA, but have always presumed it was a two-tier system. I didn’t realise it had no social provision at all
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  1. “My conclusion is that if those people can get to the doctor’s just to be rude and horrible, they are not sick enough to be there in the first place.” i totally agree Pete. being rude is being uncivilized.
    i’m fortunate that getting an appointment with my healthcare providers is pretty decent. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have learned, Pete, that anything that is free is likely to be treated with disdain after an initial “honeymoon” period. What you have described above is not only a scourge in the medical world but also in the schools. The students are so rude and disrespectful to the teachers that many give up teaching. It is a sad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thinks have changed here as well. I do remember you would also go to the surgery and just wait your turn, and I don’t remember toys when I was a child either, perhaps some children’s book…I remember when I studied Medicine that they warned us the culture of complaints and suing was quickly spreading (I remember the manager of the hospital the Medical School I studied at was attached to, and one of the best in the country, jokingly told us that he was thinking of buying a bus to be able to take all the staff sued by patients to court). I always told management off for always having the complaint forms widely advertised, but not mentioning compliments. (Mind you, we were told to keep letters, e-mails, or cards patients sent us with anything complimentary and send them a copy, not something that common in my line of work). I agree, though. It is a privilege to have a public health system free for all, and people should be grateful and consider how things are in other places. Many people have a high sense of personal entitlement, but they don’t seem to think they have any obligations to go with their rights. And now, rant over. Thanks, Pete! (Oh, I wanted to do a study and ask staff about their experiences with patients for my dissertation in criminology, but it was impossible to organise with the Ethics Committee. It would have been interesting!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember when I was stationed in Scotland in the early 80s and going to the doctors. I had an emergency apendectomy and I gave birth to my first son up there. I remember how annoyed the doctors were that I asked so many questions. I was told it was an “American” trait to inquire and ask for clarification and was told it was rude to question a clear authority figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You reminded me of the waiting room for the pediatric practice when I was a kid. They had a big aquarium which we stared out nervously waiting our turn. No running around or making noise for sure. All the kids were dreading the probable penicillin shot in the rear end. One shot fit all in the early 50’s. My doctor now is in a “Center for Aging” and it is very quiet with few phones.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your description of how it used to be is exactly how it is here now, including the wooden benches, although people who know each other do chat, just about sick cows not sick children 🙂 Turn up, wait, get seen and normally within an hour, two at most. Even the dentist is free over here in Poland, which I was pleased to discover when I had a filling recently.
    They may not have as many machines that go ‘ping’ but its a system that I have faith in and that everyone respects.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “if those people can get to the doctor’s just to be rude and horrible, they are not sick enough to be there in the first place.”…. I’m inclined to agree, Pete…. I despair at the attitude of some people

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sue. Genuine complaints should of course be investigated. But shouting at doctors and nurses because of not being seen quickly enough is just unacceptable to me. I have always thought that the ones complaining the loudest had the least wrong with them.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. A sense of entitlement seems to be the modern curse for anything of value that is offered to the public by government or government agencies. The sense of entitlement seems to get worse as one is found to be on the lowest levels of the socio-economic reality in the jurisdiction being discussed. In the areas where I reside, the welfare-dependents are the most vocal in complaining about free services they receive when, in fact, they should be more than happy that the working class actually subsidizes their freebies for them ….I think all social programs such as government supported free healthcare should be allocated on the basis of a recipient’s ability to pay and should be dispensed with that information at hand … Thus the absolutely indigent who is also physically or mentally incapacitated (By anything other than drugs or alcohol) should receive absolutely free care while those who are bodily able and who receive some kind of wage or stipend should be required to pay a co-pay amount for services they receive … based on a percentage of the level of their incomes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this, John. A sliding scale payment for benefits of any kind used to operate here. It was called the ‘Means Test’. That was one of the things that was done away with after the NHS was founded.
      The issue for me would be this. I paid into my National Insurance for all my working life, between 8-12% of my salary. I didn’t really need anything in return until I reached retirement age. Now with my pensions, I might be judged able to pay a big percentage for any medical treatment. That would not take into account everything I paid during the 43 years I was at work
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pensioners’ share of co-pays should take into account the money that you have already paid into the system … You should get a credit for the amount you have already paid … a credit expressed in percentages ….a percentage that would be deducted from every bill for service from NHS that you receive ….(Or) Pensioners of retirement age or above should be exempt from copayments altogether.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Our Military Veterans Health Care System (VA) does it very well. Copays are based on income, and there are deferments for hardship and there are different percentages of credits given according to the “Status” assigned … i.e., “Combat related,” “Non-Combat related” etc. If you can show that copayments work an undue hardship, they can be dispensed with entirely.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Those of us brought up to be polite, and without a sense of entitlement, are a dying breed Pete. That the NHS is free is very nice, but people don’t treat it with respect because of that. They get obese, smoke 40 fags a day, drink their livers into oblivion knowing that the good old NHS will look after them when they become diabetic, get lung cancer or liver/heart failure. Our NHS would not need so much help if people would look after themselves better. Our A&E’s would not be struggling if people didn’t turn up with a pimple on their arse or a bit of a cough and demand to be seen. I have seen people being rude and been treated badly whist I worked in the NHS, by people who’ve been on google and think they know best, or just bad mannered oiks. Now I’m in the private sector all my patients are lovely to me!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. When I was still in the LAS, we rarely dealt with private patients. But when we did, they usually spoke to us as if we were domestic servants. I have to go to a private clinic (contracted by the NHS) for my glaucoma eye tests. The staff are impeccably polite, and you rarely hear patients complain.
      But if this had to be funded by the patients, I for one could not afford the prices. (The consultation charge and examinations that I have cost around £300 privately) I dread to think how bad things might get for future generations, when various treatments and specialities actually do become private.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. You have passed the 5000 mark well done. There’s an old saying familiarity breeds contempt and it is well linked to the more you have the less satisfied you are. So people take the NHS as an absolute right and expect it to function with 100% efficiency. Is it not very curious that in all the dealings the public have with big organisations they expect mistake free service , yet we know the public are certainly fallible and often make mistakes. My long gone uncle used to say with a smile anything that goes wrong is always someone else’s fault.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, FM. I just think that ‘the public’ have become more unpleasant in the way that they complain, and all too often take out their frustrations on the wrong people.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  11. You’re not wrong Pete. It’s not too bad at our surgery, though they are regularly running late, but in Esher where my daughter lives it is nigh on impossible to get an appointment. She can’t prebook so has to ring at 8 am only to be told there are no appointments available that day. No wonder so many people end up going to A&E. Let’s hope Boris makes good his promise to help the NHS. Not something the Tories usually do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jude. I have no faith in the Tories to do a single thing to help the NHS.
      Our own surgery is not too bad. (Julie works there as a receptionist) But even in this rather ‘genteel’ place, patients are still happy to shout at staff and complain constantly.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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