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The Friday Rant Club – Why is it so difficult to get a doctor’s appointment?

Today Emily is guest ranting –  you can find her over at Babyrambles normally




I hardly ever visited the doctor’s surgery before I had children. And then I became very familiar with the place as my children picked up strange viruses I’d never heard of such as Slapped Cheek and Hand, Foot and Mouth.


And I became very familiar with the booking system. The one where there’s no appointment to see a GP for three weeks. And if you want to see one sooner you have to phone at 8am on the day you want the appointment. And expect to spend an hour and a half trying to get through on the phone. When you eventually get through, you’re encouraged to see a nurse. And if there really are no available appointments you have to go and ‘sit and wait’. That’s fun with small children.


Why is it so hard to get a doctor’s appointment? It should just be something you can pick up the phone and sort out.


Earlier this week, my two year old fell ill with yet another ear infection. I spent over an hour trying to get through to the surgery on the phone. In the end I had to drag all three children to the doctor’s surgery just to book an appointment. My eldest two would normally have been at school and pre-school but illness seems to coincide with the school holidays. Persuading the children we all had to go to the doctor’s surgery was tricky and involved a lot of shouting. Once there I had to queue for five minutes to get an appointment. When I mentioned to the receptionist how long-winded this was to get an appointment her reply was, ‘yes it’s busy’.


We went home for forty minutes then all four of us had to go back to the surgery for my daughter’s appointment. And don’t get me started on the length of time you have to wait for the prescription either. You know all those little multi-coloured boxes of pills on the shelves of a pharmacy? Try keeping those away from a bored two year old. And six year olds and three year olds love running up to the automatic door repeatedly to make it open. The automatic door which is handy for wheelchair users, and less handy when your young child can be through the door and out in a busy road quicker than you can say ‘there are no doctors available today, can a nurse help instead?’


We live in an area where vast new housing estates are constantly springing up. Does anyone ever build more community facilities to support them such as new doctor’s surgeries and schools? No.


Our doctor’s surgery has too many patients on its books. It can’t cope with the numbers and the staff are jaded and couldn’t care less about how hard it is to get an appointment or how long patients have to wait. I’ve spoken to the practice manager about this before and apparently they’re ‘working on it’. I don’t think our surgery is unique, I think it’s a frustrating problem which is repeated up and down the country.


Either some serious public investment is needed or a semi-private system. I’m not pro privatising the NHS but I would actually pay twenty quid for a doctor’s appointment –  just to be able to book an emergency doctor’s appointment when I needed it and not have to wait for ages with young children. And for people who can’t afford twenty quid, well they’d be okay because those of us who can won’t be clogging up the system too. A bit like veterinary practices. I’ve often thought healthcare for animals is more efficient than healthcare for humans.




The Friday Rant Club is a chance to get those niggles, those irritants, those things that make you want to throw a toddler-stylee tantrum off your chest before the weekend.

Go on, let it all out and if you feel like it there’s a rather nice little button over there on the right to show you that you like a bit of a rant or even better get in touch and send me a guest rant.

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8 comments to The Friday Rant Club – Why is it so difficult to get a doctor’s appointment?

  • David Mackay

    Good post Hannah. I agree with you. However, are you aware that anyone who mentions the words ‘private’ and ‘nhs’ in the same sentence, or even on the same day, in 21st century britainland, is punishable by public flogging by men in beards with rolled up copies of the guardian? All the while they’re shouting ‘rich capitalist queue jumper’.

    • Emily O

      It was me who wrote it : ) You’ve got a point, I’m now going to hide for a few days from bearded men who have a broadsheet in their hand which looks like The Guardian

  • Morag

    I’m American, so bear with my ignorance: Why wouldn’t you prefer to see the nurse? Easier, they can deal with most problems themselves (over here, anyway) and prescreen if there’s something serious that does need a doctor’s attention.

    • Emily O

      That’s a good idea if the nurses are good at what they do. Put politely, the ones at our surgery are a mixed bag. And we’re usually there for my daughter’s recurrent ear infections which nurses can’t prescribe the antibiotics for.

    • Over here often the nurse can’t do much and still has to get the Doctor to sign it off so even more waiting to get that approved

  • Rachel

    That’s horrendous, I remember the same ‘system’ from where we used to live. Now we’ve relocated to a seaside town, there is a fabulous emergency surgery open 8am-8pm presumably for all the tourists but it works so well for residents too. As long as you tell the receptionist what you need to see the doctor or nurse about (the choice is yours) so they can prioritise (and actually, who’s to say you’re not lying anyway?) there is no way you won’t be seen during the next 2 hours if need be. It’s such a lottery and I genuinely feel sorry for all the people in your situation. Having children hanging round a waiting room full of ill people is likely to result in even more bugs, too!

    • Emily O

      It’s good you have a better system. I think surgeries vary according to how populated the place you live is. I remember it being difficult in London and we’re in a very populated part of the south east now, if there are lots of people in the area and not many doctors then these problems arise.

  • Pollyanna

    My 3 year old had a rash all over her body and when I rang to get an appointment I was told the doctor had to call me back first even before I could get an appointment and then once the doctor did call he asked if I had a photograph to….EMAIL to him! Im still outraged to this day and many occasions after this incident they have appalled me. It wont be long before serious things happen and then only then it will have to change.

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