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.