We all know that the NHS is in crisis; at its core huge changes have to be made and we hope and pray that these changes happen soon, or the NHS could implode. We love and admire the front line workers who worked with such courage and love throughout the pandemic, and we understand – or try to understand – how our GP practises are struggling with staff shortages and increasing patient numbers. So forgive me for having a little swipe at my local NHS.
It may not seem – and it isn’t – a big thing in the great scheme of what doctors/nurses have to deal with in their busy lives, but it would be so easy to put right. It’s about the way I feel I am spoken to as a ‘mature’ woman. The word that comes to mind is ‘dismissive’.
I am moderately fit and 68 and would say, if asked, that I am healthy and hardly ever go to the doctor. Or I would have said that. In truth, in the last four years I have been to the doctor quite a few times. I had atrial fibulation which resulted, three years ago, in having a successful cryo-ablation; I had post menopausal bleeding this year, which was quickly and efficiently investigated and put down to a polyp which was removed; and I had an inconclusive mammogram result which turned out to be cysts – no further action required. And recently I had a kidney infection, now gone. I am a lucky woman.
A couple of months ago I asked to speak to a nurse – didn’t want to trouble a doctor – about itchy sore and persistent weals which had appeared in my armpits. I hadn’t changed my deodorant… what could it be? The nurse rang me back and the conversation went like this..
“Is the skin broken?”
No, it is not.
“Is it both armpits?”
“Have you changed your deodorant?”
No, I haven’t. But – it has only just occurred to me – perhaps the formula for the deodorant has changed (it was Dove or Sure, nothing unusual). Sorry (always “sorry”) I should have tried a different deodorant, or no deodorant at all, before I rang you.
“Mmh, maybe. Let’s see… (she is looking at my profile on her computer) well, you’re 68! At your age you probably don’t sweat much, I wouldn’t bother with a deodorant any more.”
Oh! OK, thanks. Did I say “Ouch, I find that incredibly dismissive?” No I didn’t, but I will next time.
Couldn’t she have said “Yes, good idea, why don’t you try going without a deodorant and see how you get on? If there’s nothing else? Goodbye.”
When I saw the doctor ten days ago about feeling really ill with a urine infection, headache and temperature, she was great. She said she thought it was a kidney infection (I had back pain too), gave me an antiobiotic and explained that, when the lab results came through, she might be able to give me a more targeted antibiotic. I went home, faced the wall, drank a lot of water and didn’t eat for three days and, after a week and the second antiobiotic, I was as right as rain. The medical treatment I had was faultless. When I asked if there was a reason why I got a kidney infection, she said: “Oh they’re incredibly common in post-menopausal women.” Boof! I’m ordinary and I’m old.
Am I being so very over-sensitive? Considering 60+ year-olds make up almost a quarter of the UK population – and rising – I think the medical world ought to be aware of how it feels to be ageing. Forty, as they say, is the new 60 – just with a bit more maintenance.
Geraldine celebrated her 60th birthday in an extraordinary way – read how here
Read Annabel’s post Where’s The Personal Touch Gone?