The StirrerThe Stirrer

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond

A DOCTORS COMPLAINT

08-06-2007

Lynn Hawthorne's feeling sick, but there's no point going to her local GP. That's the cause of her complaint in the first place.

A good doctor shouldn't be too hard to find, eh? Well for me, yes it is. I am unhappy with my GP and am having problems in doing something about it.

There is a specific reason and general reasons why I dislike him.

First the general stuff. He rarely makes eye contact with his patients. He even has a sign up on the surgery wall to say that 'just because doctor is not looking at you, he is still listening. He is consulting his computer records.' For the whole consultation?

I was once told that much of the diagnosis of an illness depends on the visual assessment of the patient. Allegedly, the lack of eye contact is because 'some cultures find eye contact offensive.' Well, my particular culture finds it offensive if eye contact is not made.

He is curt, blunt and gets stroppy if you question him. He is also indistinct and heavily accented in speech and mutters to his computer screen, rather than the patient.

He fails to show much in the way of care or concern and seems to want to race through the consultation. But that may be because he regularly turns up 20 minutes late every morning, so he's at least two patients behind before he starts.

I can appreciate that calls may be made on the way to surgery, but that wouldn't account for the regularity of the timing of his arrival.

There is also no follow up. If you don't consult him, he'll rarely keep an eye on you and your medication.

The specific reason why I dislike him is because, in September 2005, I consulted him on a gynaecological matter. He didn't look at me when speaking, chuntered about me having had certain tests before and then, without warning, jabbed me in the stomach area and asked if it hurt. When my husband returned from work, I was doubled up in agony on the sofa and remained so for many hours.

I made a complaint to the surgery and got a curt response from the practice manager, who was not present during my consultation but who backed the doctor implicitly.

I took the matter further, to the Healthcare Commission, which had a six-month waiting list for investigations. This turned into a year, due to the volume of complaints. When I finally got a reply, I was unhappy with it, so my complaint was re-assessed. This week, 19 months after the initial complaint, I received the same response as before. Basically, that GP has 'got away with it'.

There was, apparently, 'some doubt' that I was seated during the examination. Medical opinion was sought (again, from someone who was not present) and, although it was deemed unsatisfactory in terms of examination, because I had no witness present, no comment could be made. They knew that 19 months ago.

So he's been tutted at and told to read the new guidance on caring for patients. This is an experienced GP who is close to retirement age and who shouldn't have to be reminded.

As my examination was 'not intimate', there was no need of a nurse present, but if I feel I want a 'chaperone' in future, I must make that clear.

And, in any correspondence from the surgery, the relevant paragraph on how to complain must be included.

Nineteen months I've waited for that. So that's alright, then. Actually, no, it isn't. I still have a GP I am loathe to consult. I am of an age where I shall begin to need information of a gynaecological nature and do not feel that I can approach him. And he's hardly going to be pleased that I've complained about him.

Most people would say change doctors, but it's not that simple. How do you know how good a GP is until you consult him/her? You can't test drive a GP like you can a car and, once you've changed - which isn't easy - you're committed.

If you go on personal recommendation, you can't get in because the surgery is full. They are not allowed to set up a waiting list to join, because that's seen as 'poaching', so you have to wait for someone to die and happen to ring up on the right day! So much for patient choice!

And what about female doctors? Where are they? Sometimes you want to consult someone of your own gender, someone who has at least an understanding of how you feel or what you're going through.

With this debacle over jobs for new doctors, we'll be lucky if we have any left at all: they're being encouraged to work abroad in places like Australia, so their gain is our loss.

I know that being a GP is not an easy job and that you have to keep abreast of many changes in medication, treatment, policies, etc. But that said, surely the public is entitled to high quality treatment from a caring professional, someone who listens and looks?

None of us enjoy going to the doctor, or being ill, and often we are worried or concerned. We should not have to consider the mood of the GP, too.

There is a temporary solution: a lot of this particular GP's patients wait until it's his half-day and book to see the locum. He doesn't know you from Adam, so has to work harder to get to the problem, but at least he listens, looks and wishes you well on the way out.

But that still leaves me without access to the medical care I need, so if any GP wants to take me on, let me know!

Anyone else had a bad experience with a dodgy doctor? Or got advice for Lynn? Leave a comment on the Message Board.

Leave a comment or raise new issues on The Stirrer message board.

©2006 The Stirrer