This DM article highlights the ludicrously short amount of time you are allowed to see your GP. It is the one thing that all my patients complain about. Many people also have more than one problem and this is when things start to get complicated. Supposing you have headaches, IBS and feel tired – three very normal symptoms that millions of people are suffering from. How does the GP get to grips with this within the ten minutes allotted to you. Double appointments are rare – our surgery doesnt do them anymore full stop. If you go in with multiple symptoms some of the symptoms may be caused by just one thing. Let’s take for example IBS, whats causing the IBS, could be causing the headaches and the tiredness and no GP can work all that out in such a short space of time. Which is why we need more time. Much more time. I think it needs to be quarter of an hour at least. I’m lucky – after an hour to an hour and a half, I’m getting a really good picture of what is going on, know what the person is eating, know their lifestyles, their stresses, their worries etc. It makes things a whole lot easier.
This is the largest complaint I hear with my patients – they do not have enough time with their GP and if the above is to be believed it’s going to get worse. I’ve written about this before but its such a “hot” subject I’m in Groundhog day and writing about it again.
The recommended time GPs have at the moment is 10 minutes. It’s not long enough full stop. Often as stated in the above article if someone is really concerned or shy they come with a different problem and don’t discuss the one that is really bothering them.
After ten minutes with a patient I haven’t even started. I’m lucky as I’ve said before I get one to one a half hours and by then I assure you I know that patient very well. I will give you an example of why more time is needed. I had a patient last year who went to her GP with severe IBS – he did a few routine tests and found nothing wrong and sent her home. She was with him for seven minutes. On talking to her in our consultation she started to open up and tell me her mother and grandmother were coeliac and her sister was just getting the test done. She also told me that her grandfather had pernicious anaemia. I asked her if she had told her GP this. She said she hadnt and as she was quite new at the practice she hadnt seen him very often. However what she said next sums this up completely for me. “I really felt that my family history was relevant, but I got flustered. The GP was very brisk with me and started looking at his watch. I’d already taken 5 minutes of his time just by listing my symptoms: severe fatigue, runny stools, terrible cramping and bloating, and a skin rash. There just wasnt enough time to tell him everything and he stood up to let me go. I felt like a number not a person and came out very upset and more anxious”.
I wrote to this GP and spoke to him on the phone about this girl. He was charming and extremely helpful and did arrange for a coeliac and B12 test – she was coeliac and she needed B12 injections. He said he had no idea that she had a family history of this disease. I don’t blame him I blame anyone who is responsible for cutting times with our GP’s. The government always bangs on about patient care first, well this is the front line of patient care and an important window of initial diagnosis. To cut the time further would be madness.