Published on 8 November 2005 in ,

I’ve had a bit of a sore arm all day thanks to the annual flu jab, which I got from the doctors last night. I say annual – in reality it’s the first one I’ve had in about four years as I keep forgetting, which usually results in being told off by my doctor. As I’m asthmatic, they seem to think these things are vaguely important.

It’s also the second time I’ve visited the doctors surgery since I moved to the area, and I continue to be impressed with them. My old doctors in Ealing (the Florence Road Surgery) were pretty good, but Merton Medical Practise seem to have taken things to a whole new level. They have by far the happiest receptionists I’ve ever come across, and they’re remarkably efficent.

Last night I turned up about seven minutes early, and I’d barely had chance to peruse the array of exciting literature that adorns the waiting room – exciting topics such as therapy and carbon monoxide poisioning – before being called in to see the nurse. I was in, stabbed with a needle, and out again all before my appointment was actually timed for. But then I wouldn’t expect any less from a surgery where, when I joined, I was booked in to see the doctor, just so I could say hello. Well and get my repeat prescription sorted out, but the receptionist had suggested it before I even muttered about needing a couple of inhalers.

And what a doctor! Happiest doctor I’ve ever come across – he was literally beaming as he shook my hand.

All this was a far cry from the doctors I tried to register with after leaving university. On returning to Hyde in 1999, I went back to the doctors that I’d been registered with from birth until I departed for Durham.

I was told by the grumpy receptionist that I had to wait a month to see the practise nurse before I could do anything. “But I need to get some asthma inhalers – I’m running out” I said, which was true. My preventer inhaler was very low as I’d not had chance to get a new one before leaving Durham.

The response I got was blunt. Tough. You’ll have to wait a month.

Looking back now, I should have lodged an official complaint about that attitude. If they had no capacity for new patients, they should have said so. But someone coming up to a doctors surgery saying they’re asthmatic, and running out of their drugs should be enough to set warning bells off. Other receptionists I’ve encountered begin to start moving heaven and earth as soon as they see that box on the pre-registration questionnaire, even if I do point out that, actually, it’s only very mild, or that I’m OK drug wise so there’s no hurry.

In the end I gave up on them in disgust and went to another surgery nearby. For useless fact fans, it’s the surgery opposite that one formerly run by Harold Shipman. Within two days I was being assessed by the practise nurse, and had my new prescription not long after.

Thankfully since then I haven’t encountered a bad doctors surgery – even in London, which is of course a place where many have bad tales to tell of long waits and grumpy staff.