According to this morning’s news too many of us in the UK are bothering GPs with minor ailments such as coughs and colds (BBC News – Too many visit GPs with minor ailments, campaigners say http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8569173.stm). A report by the “Self-Care Campaign” says common ailments account for nearly one fifth of GPs’ workload.
I was feeling rather pleased with myself for not having bothered my doctor for about 12-15 years but then remembered the slip that has just been returned by my GP surgery with my NHS summary Care Record opt-out form:
“Please find enclosed your ‘opt-out’ form which I am returning as I cannot find a current registration for you at our surgery, so assume this was sent to us in error.”
I had not bothered my GP and thus, it seemed, my GP was not bothered about me!
This is not the first major faux pas that the NHS has made regarding my medical records. When we moved to Caversham in 1982 I registered at the local surgery. My new NHS card arrived – in those days we had nice little buff cards with a coat of arms in the top left hand corner – and I tucked it away in a file marked “Medical/NHS”. I should have checked it there and then because 8 months later when I needed to go to the doctor for some vaccinations I discovered a serious problem. The address on the card was correct but the name and NHS number belonged to someone else. I finally received a correct card from the local Family Practitioner Committee but in the meantime my records had been lost.
I should at this point explain to those of a younger generation that aeons ago doctors scribbled your symptoms,diagnosis and treatment in illegible handwriting onto cards. Computers were not even a twinkle in the Practice Manager’s eye.
Fast forward 28 years and my husband, as well as many of my friends, recently received letters from their GPs about the NHS Summary Care Record together with a form enabling you to opt out. Mine never arrived but the post is sometimes unreliable in this neck of the woods so I assumed it was “lost in the post”. Not to worry. I simply downloaded the form from the web site, filled it in and delivered it by hand to the surgery. Then it was returned.
So today I tried to find out what had happened to my records.
I must say that the surgery building and facilities have much improved since I last had to use them. They even have computers now. The receptionist tried to be helpful and tapped away at the keyboard searching by various criteria but each time she hit enter I could see her thinking “Computer says no”. There was no record of me at all on their system. Was I sure I had registered with them? Yes – and waved my NHS card with the doctor’s name and surgery on it as proof. Had I registered somewhere else as temporary resident? No. And so the questions went on. She gave up and went to refer to someone “in admin”. Had I actually seen a doctor at the surgery? Yes, about 12-15 years ago. It will be on my records…..but of course you don’t have my records any more! Off she went again.
It transpires that because I haven’t visited the surgery for so long my records may have been sent back “to base”
“Which is where?”
“Where the records are stored”
“Which is where?”
“Back at base”
“Which is …. oh forget it”
But they were confused that there wasn’t a single trace of me on “the system”. What now? They might possibly be able to track down my records “at base” but I have had to register with them from scratch. This was no simple one page form. I had to work may way through six pages of questions, most of which where not applicable and the rest impossible to fill in because I could not remember dates or even years of vaccinations and childhood illnesses. Don’t worry, I was told, we’ll find it on your records. BUT YOU DON’T HAVE MY RECORDS!!
I have filled in the forms to the best of my ability and await the results with interest. I confess that I find it worrying that I am a “non-person” as far as the NHS is concerned. What happens if I have an accident, am rushed to hospital and they try and contact my GP? I apparently don’t have one, nor do I have a medical history of any sort.I was hoping that other official and government bodies no longer knew of me but alas Inland Revenue and the VAT office remain firmly convinced of my existence.
During the search process, one of the staff made an interesting comment: “If you haven’t been ill enough to visit us in the last few years then we assume that you’ve moved away or died”. So forget about the “Self-Care Campaign”, make sure you pester your GP with every little ache, cough and blister. Otherwise you’re dead.