Sods law dictates that whenever you are en route to a doctor’s appointment, your ailment seems to completely vanish. So much so, that the act of making an appointment to see your GP should be published in The Lancet as a drug-free cure for all disorders. In my case, it was not so much disappear completely, but it was a far cry from the hideous pain I had been suffering with my bad neck over the past week and a half.
My local doctor’s surgery has recently become all new-fangled. When I rang up to book an appointment I was treated to a brand new automated selection; press 1 for a medical emergency (although, in my opinion, 999 is a far easier number to remember than my 6 digit surgery number when faced with a dire medical situation), press 2 for appointments, which is what I should’ve done, had curiosity not got the better of me, wondering how many options they were going to give me before they ran out, press 3 to speak to a nurse, press 4 if you are in need of a repeat prescription, press 5…..oh well, I’d had enough of that now and pressed 2 (assuming that there was an almost infinite amount of options, the final one being press 999 if you have now lost the will to live).
Not only had I been automated with regards to the landline, my local surgery now sends appointment reminders by text exactly 24 hours before your allotted time, which is hard luck for those who have yet to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and do not possess a smart new Nokia. Luddites will simply have to rely on the old fashioned methods of using a diary.
I arrived at the surgery five minutes early, to avoid an encore of a previous encounter with a receptionist, who scolded be for turning up a whole two minutes late and therefore putting their entire system out of kilter. I was met my a lady wearing a rather smart navy blue cardigan, who was leaning over the reception desk, frantically pointing at a big white screen on the wall in front of me. This peculiar mime act was my introduction to the new computerised, touch screen, booking in system, a.k.a. the DIY receptionist.
There was an exciting selection of languages to choose from, and, despite the temptation to test them all, I opted to select English. I was rewarded with “Welcome” displayed on the screen, swiftly followed by the choice of male or female. Well, the last time I checked I was a lady, so female it is. Next I had to use a number pad to tap out my year of birth, then I had to select my month of birth, and, you guessed it, I was then asked for my day of birth! Hoorah, it finally recognised who I am and I was instructed to take a seat alongside all the other automated patients in the waiting room. Good job I had arrived early as I was now only moments away from being late. Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?
As I plonked my backside on the only available chair, stuck right next to the giant triffid in the corner, I couldn’t fail to notice the massive tv screen located at the far end of the room. Rather hoping for something cheery to watch while I waited, I was highly disappointed to discover that for my viewing pleasure was an endless stream of medical-related adverts. Have I thought about my holiday jabs? Am I depressed? Have I got diabetes? Do I need help to quit smoking? Am I pregnant? Did I book my flu jab? The list seemed endless.
Suddenly, the entire screen turned canary yellow, accompanied by a very loud doorbell sound, and someone’s name flashed up in huge black letters! It appears that you are no longer called to your appointment by a kindly nurse or by a red light and buzzer combination. Your full name, along with the name of your GP and your allocated room number are displayed for all to see, thus ending any quaint notions of anonymity. Thank goodness you are spared the excruciating humiliation of seeing your medical woe announced to all and sundry. I must admit to being a tad shocked at such a blatant lack of privacy, and now sat in dread of the moment that my own name would be emblazoned on a big yellow screen for one and all to see. Although I am not a fugitive from the law, and have nothing to fear from others being aware of my presence, I do not seek fame and fortune and therefore do not require my name to appear on a huge public television screen.
While I pondered upon this annoyance, wondering if this would put me at risk of credit card cloning or spam emails, and whatever happened to patient confidentiality, my attention became focussed on the fact that I was the only person in the room not hacking up a lung. On every available seat was all manner of individuals, apparently stricken with the recently reported flu epidemic. Despite warnings on tv and radio along with notices in the local and national press to remain quarantined at home, unless it became a medical emergency, the world and its wife had turned up to my local surgery this morning, and were now filling the room in which I sat with highly contagious germs. The flu virus had obviously rendered them illiterate, as the walls of the waiting room were practically smothered in huge posters telling people to stay away if they had caught this particular annual affliction.
The thought then crossed my mind that each and every one of these sickly individuals had touched that big white screen before I arrived, and now the forefinger on my right hand was undoubtedly contaminated with millions of little bugs, just waiting for me to succumb to their evil. I frantically rummaged about in my handbag and, as luck would have it, I discovered a travel pack of wet wipes that had been sitting in there since a summer holiday in
6 months earlier. See, women should never clear out their handbags as you never know when you might need something that’s stashed in there. My germ phobia, induced by crowds of ill people in the vicinity, usually forbids me to thumb through previously owned, and sneezed on, copies of Women’s Own or Angling News, and the last thing I need is a new bacterial woe to concern myself with. Cyprus
As I anxiously continued to disinfect my spotlessly clean finger another thought crossed my mind. What about all the airborne germs? I had no choice, I just had to zip up my fleece as far as it would go and yank it up over my face. I must’ve looked a real sight for sore eyes, a mad woman buried up to her eyelashes in a thick jumper, frantically rubbing her finger with a baby wipe. No wonder the small child, who until now had simply been a minor, snotty-nosed irritation, as it read out loud to its flu-ridden mother “A is for apple, B is for box…C is presumably for cough” was now grabbing onto her ailing parent’s leggings screaming like a demon. I must’ve been a terrifying sight, however, I wasn’t going to allow the guilt of traumatising a pre-schooler to come between me and my germ blockade, so I simply ignored her wails and stared intently at the adverts for factor 50 sun lotion, which were now appearing on the huge screen in front of me.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a tiny little old lady, who was barely able to push her zimmer frame through the heavy double doors, struggling with understanding the concept of futuristic touch-screen technology. Clearly confused, and in obvious need of assistance, the becardiganed woman finally abandoned her Marcelle Marceau impression, and reluctantly wandered over to help the poor dear out.
After what seemed an eternity, and just before I was about to pass out from heatstroke wrapped in my fleecey cocoon, the ridiculously loud doorbell sound, which accompanied the vast yellow on-screen written announcement, alerted everyone within a mile that my GP was finally requesting my presence in room 3. Now, I wonder what it was I came here for?