I have always said, no, threatened to blog the scribbling’s that I have kept of my working life in the National Health Service. I always thought, however, that I would never be believed. However, as the years have gone on and the stories of the NHS have been leaked, I finally feel it is my turn. I have to stress the job of a Doctor’s receptionist is not an easy one. I now only work two days a week and it is enough sometimes. It is so important to remember that the receptionist hands are very much tied. They cannot issue your prescription willy nilly or change it at random. Only a Doctor can do things like that. If they are reluctant to give a result to you, it isn’t because they are being difficult; they just don’t want to give you the wrong information. If the Doctor doesn’t phone you back as quick as you think he should have, it is not the receptionist’s fault. She passes on the message and it is the Doctor who decides when to phone you.
So, below are just a few of my stories. It is not pretty reading, although it is sometimes funny. For every story I tell, there are a hundred others. Enjoy and may you be forever scared to visit your GP in the future.
Monday: First day of diet and arrive at work to cakes galore. Manage to stick to carrots and celery until 11am when a patient brings in a specimen. Conversation went as follows.
Me: ‘Hello, how are you?’
A question I really should know better than to ask a patient.
‘Dr Marshall asked me to bring in a specimen, do you want it?
Not really. I offer to take it anyway.
Me: ‘I’ll take that for you?’
Carrier bag is handed over the reception desk. Muggins here puts her hand in to remove specimen bottle, only it isn’t a specimen bottle is it? My hand encounters something warm and soft.
Me cringing: ‘Is it a sample?’
‘Yep, a stool sample.’
My hand freezes. Shit, yes, literally, shit. He didn’t put it in a bottle? I remove myself and carrier bag to the loo. There, I discover to my horror that he had indeed put his stool sample straight into the carrier bag. I mean, what?
I later retreat to staff room stressed and miserable where I consume two iced buns and a sausage roll. Bang went that diet.
There was of course the day that I had a quick-lunch and a quick wee break because we were so short-staffed. I rushed from the loo and checked the waiting room. Figuring I wouldn’t have much time to tidy it later that afternoon I decided to do it while there were still a few patients waiting. It took me about five minutes. I returned to reception to have my colleague fall into fits of laughter.
My skirt was tucked into my knickers and my bum had been on show the whole time. Classic or what?
Booking appointments, or at least trying to.
‘Can I have an appointment with Dr Roberts?’
‘The earliest appointment I have with Dr Roberts is next Monday.’
‘How about this week?’
‘No, I’m afraid not. The first appointment is next Monday.’
‘How about Thursday?’
‘Well, that is this week too isn’t it? And we don’t have any appointments with that Doctor this week.’
‘Not even on Friday?’
Am I speaking in Swahili?
‘Not until next week?’
‘Can I have one for the 22nd then?’
This is now two weeks away.
If it means you will then go away…
Answering the emergency only line.
‘Emergency line, how can I help?’
‘Can I book an appointment?’
‘Is it an emergency?’
‘No, but I couldn’t get through on the other lines.’
‘This is for emergencies, could you call back and press for the right option please’
‘Emergency line, can I help you?’
‘I need to see the Doctor urgently.’
‘What is the urgency please.’
‘I have had this cold for over a week and it isn’t going. I am going away tomorrow and need antibiotics today.’
‘Antibiotics won’t actually help your cold.’
‘I want them anyway.’
‘And you feel this is an emergency?’
‘I said so didn’t I?’
‘I’ll get the doctor to call you.’
Empty surgery. Last patient has left. I tidy the waiting room, wash up the cups and check the consulting rooms for left on computers. I open the door to the treatment room to find a patient laying on the couch.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry madam, I had no idea you were here.’
‘The doctor told me to rest here and he would pop back.’
How do I tell her the Doctor has now popped home and most certainly won’t be back?
One moment and I’ll check what the Doctor wants to do.
Oh my God, he has forgotten all about her.
A quick phone call to the Doctor at home who confirms he has indeed forgotten the patient. Asks me how she is feeling and then tells me to tell her it is fine for her to go home!
I finally lock up.
Tracing a noise.
The afternoon I spent trying to trace the whereabouts of a strange whistling noise that many people in reception mentioned, finally tracing it back to Mrs Wilkinson’s hearing aid in the podiatrist’s room where she was having her feet done.
Unlocking the front door and walking away and then waiting for fifteen minutes for the patients who had been queuing to come in from the cold. Only to finally realise I had undone only one bolt and they couldn’t actually get in not that they didn’t want to.
The day a patient came and shouted at me regarding his medication.
‘These aren’t what I wanted, the Doctor said I could have a stronger dose.’
Before I could speak he lobbed the bottle of pills at me. I ducked just in time.
It turned out that they were the right pills and he was supposed to take more so he would get a stronger dose. I gave him the bottle back, although I did feel inclined to lob it also…
The day a man asked me to undo his belt.
‘Undo me belt will you?’
‘I really can’t undo your belt.’
‘I need to pee.’
Is this really my problem?
‘I still can’t undo your belt.’
‘What is wrong with you?’
What is wrong with me??
Suffice to say no one undid his belt and he amazingly managed to do it himself.
Ghosts in the surgery.
The best story is of the haunting. My colleague and I were tidying up the building. The last patient had left and we were waiting for the clock to tell us it was time to turn the phones over to the Out of hours. We were just leaving the treatment room when we both heard a creaking sound from the end of the building. We both stood shaking as it got louder and louder as we backed away. Neither of us were brave enough to go and check and became so frightened that we turned the phones over ten minutes earlier than we should have done and fled. The next day, in broad daylight we realised it was a creaking board that we were ourselves stepping on.. Red faces all around that day.
I have to add that not all the patients I have met have been like those above. Many are fantastic as are the receptionists. I have the highest respect for all receptionists.