The letter below has been amended to mask the identity of the doctors concerned and the surgeries involved, especially as this letter has not yet been delivered. Due to my agoraphobia, I minimise my exits from the house and, as I have to collect yet more meds tomorrow (it is a constant exercise), I will hand deliver the letter then, “killing two birds with one stone”
D. J. Hender A.C.A.
Doctor xxxxxxx and partners
Delivered by hand
16th August 2021
Dear Dr xxxxxxxxx and Partners,
Due to the continuous changing of opening times of xxxxxxxxx surgery, I have been in Venlafaxine withdrawal now since Thursday of last week. I am writing this letter at 4.30am because I can no longer deal with the very unpleasant and lucid dreams that I have had to endure; I am also heavily reliant on the spell check of this software, because my mind is all over the place and cannot even spell properly. Enough is enough and circumstances MUST change; now.
My withdrawal was so bad that I had no choice but to call 999, after trying my only friend on the island and 111. The paramedics were very pleasant and allayed my concerns that my withdrawal would not trigger an epileptic fit. But even though I told the call centre that I was in Venlafaxine withdrawal, the dots were not joined and they did not bring any with them. So, the call was, in effect, pointless.
A GP called two hours later but, again, it was pointless, as he said that he would prepare a prescription for the Venlafaxine, which I would have to collect and then find a surgery to dispense the drugs. How could I drive all over the place when I am in serious withdrawal? It was very dangerous to do so; I cannot even stand without support and have shuttled between my kitchen chair and my bed for the last four days, as I will hurt myself and others but I have no choice to drive to the dispensary this morning and hope that my drugs are there.
There will be a phrase constantly used in this letter and that is “Because of Covid”.
I cannot recall how many times the opening hours of the dispensary has changed and the days that it has opened. I had to write them down in my pill cupboard but they have, of course, changed, which has given rise to my withdrawal.
Now the dispensary is open every week day morning but the afternoon hours are all over the place. I have always questioned as to why the ladies needed a 1 ½ hour lunch break before but now, they have a lunchbreak until 4pm. The PM day that has caused me issues has gone from Friday to Thursday and if you wonder why I did not try to pick up my meds on Thursday, I was sick all day and Friday morning.
I have to say that the afternoon hours are completely nonsensical and very confusing. It seems that the partners change the hours at will, “because of Covid”. There is no guarantee that they will not change again.
It is not as though the practice is short of money, as it has very recently had a major upgrade at xxxxxxxxx; why this was done makes no sense when few patients actually come to the surgery now anyway. I wonder if it was done for show, as it has had no discernible benefit to patients.
Availability of doctors
First of all, I question that without any notice, my GP was changed from Dr xxxxxxxxx to Dr xxxxxxxxx. I doubt that Dr xxxxxxxxx has even set foot on the island “because of Covid”, as he only works 4 days a week, does not live on the island but lives in Southampton; a city that gives me great anger as that was one of the two places where my father sexually abused me when I was a boy. Such a move would have been useful if I was able to get access to Dr xxxxxxxxx but, as I said in the open message on the practice website, he is always on holiday.
Quite frankly, I doubt that Dr xxxxxx has written to those parties who are controlling and ruining my life, after he promised that he would (I wrote to him the day that I eventually saw him, giving him full permission to do so and hand delivered the letter). I have had no notification that he has done so and I really hope that the practice is not one of those who considers someone’s poor mental health to be “minor” and subjugated “by Covid”. I went through EVERYTHING with the paramedics that had seriously happened to me and which affects my mental health (my brain tumour, although serious, in the grand scheme of things was “natural”, is minor and was never mentioned).
They said that I should get mental health support but told them “What is the point when NOBODY will help me”; it would be just like putting a finger in a dyke. I had to pay a huge amount of money to get mental health support last year (after a call with Dr xxxxxxxx), when I wanted to end my life because the wating list was so long “because of Covid” but the waiting list for mental health issues has ALWAYS been long. I have wanted to end my life many times since, because I have come to the conclusion that I have had more than enough of my life and, especially, since I came to this “god forsaken” island, an island where I have had nothing but pain. The island and Sanctuary Cottage was to be my sanctuary but nothing could be further from the truth.
Out of desperation in dealing with my skin condition, I wrote a message to Dr xxxxxxxxx. Eventually, Dr xxxxxxxxx called me and I went through my concerns. She said that she would “write a letter to Dr xxxxxxxxx”, which would have been useful, if he was there to read it.
I have the greatest of respect for Dr xxxxxxxxx and I know that he has “retired” and is a consultant but, under law, he is still classified as a partner; I wrote to Dr xxxxxxxxx over this particular matter. I like Dr xxxxxxxxx a great deal but if his attendance is going to be “hit and miss”, he should fully retire. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for the likes of me when you cannot even get hold of one’s own GP, via whatever medium?
I imagine that all of those reading this email are thankfully healthy but, if you were a patient such as me and were suffering serious withdrawal, changes would be made immediately.
I have only managed to see Dr xxxxxxxxx a couple of times because I made a damn nuisance of myself, as I was in so much pain, from my serious skin condition. If I had not, the fallback position would have been a telephone or video call “because of Covid”.
It is very convenient for the practice to not see patients “because of Covid” but is extremely inefficient. A “video call” is allotted 15 minutes per patient (4 per hour), whilst an in person face to face appointment is allotted only 10 mins (6 per hour). That means that the practice actually deals with a third less patients per hour.
Most patients are now double vaccinated, as are the dispensers and it makes no sense for patients to be dissuaded from seeing their doctor, face to face. It is incredibly naïve to think that Covid is going to go away and we must all now deal with the virus, as normal as we can. When you go on the practice website the first thing that you see is Covid, video calls et all; this must stop
In pre vaccinated days, it did make sense for video and telephone calls to protect all of the practice staff but that is no longer the case. I am not just writing this for myself but for ALL South Wight practice patents.
Given that I am highly vulnerable and even though I am double vaccinated, if I caught Covid, it would probably be the end of me. So, until I get my confidence back, if I ever do, due to my very poor mental health, I will continue to wear a mask on the very rare occasions that I venture out, which is solely for medical issues, whether to collect my medication or to go to the osteopath. The paramedics asked how I got my food; I told them that it was all delivered. In fact, everything is delivered.
There is a sign on the front door of xxxxxxxxx surgery; “no mask, no entry”. This notice is now pointless, because not only are most, if not all, adult patients double vaccinated but none of the staff, whether at xxxxxxxxx or xxxxxxxxx, wear masks whilst they are working with each other. Yes, they may get lateral flow tests but that will not stop them getting Covid and, if healthy, which most of them are, the end result will be cold like symptoms. Do we protect ourselves from colds and flu? Of course, we do not. After all, the staff live with families and it makes the mandate that masks are worn completely useless.
The end of video calls et all
Whilst a small proportion of patient issues can be dealt with in video or telephone calls, most patients would want to see their GP, if given the choice. The default position of this type of service must end. It is also unacceptable that the receptionists decide if you can see a doctor at all. It is NOT their business to know one’s medical issues and the unwritten privacy contract that has always existed between a patient and his or her GP must be preserved and the excuse of “because of Covid” must be thrown in the bin.
What I am prepared to do
Given my many physical and mental health issues, I am very grateful for the support that the doctors and dispensers have given to me in the past; the support of the dispensers continues to this day, unimpeded “because of Covid” and I am very grateful to them.
To force the practice to do the “right thing”, I am more than prepared to sue the practice for compensation. I do not believe in the compensation culture but, if this is the only way, then I will go ahead.
For the avoidance of doubt, I will be suing all senior members of the practice, which means the partners and will include xxxxxxxxxx, as he “holds himself out” to be a senior doctor (and therefore partner) in the practice (I have legal training as part of my professional qualifications). He is, of course, supposedly retired but is a “consultant”. I warned him that this may happen but never imagined that it would be me who would be suing the practice. The suit will be set aside if I see proactive and immediate changes.
I am quite sure that this will make me very unpopular with the practice but, if the practice refuse to cater to my medical requirements, I will sue for the lack of provision of medical care. This is an action that I will only effect as my very last resort as I have no wish to do so, given that the xxxxxx/xxxxxxx surgeries are the closest to me and are the only surgeries that I can access, due to my severe agoraphobia, a serious mental condition that has also been ignored by the practice
For changes to be made, I am more than willing to attend either the xxxxxxxxx or xxxxxxxxx surgeries to be a guest in a partners’ meeting to discuss the many issues that I have raised, as a patient representative but I will not hold my breath. As I have said many times, this is not just about me, it is about the South Wight patients.