But this morning I finally phoned the practice, and said "I'd like to make an appointment please". "Certainly," says the receptionist. "Could I ask what the nature of the problem is?" I say as politely as I can (which at 8:30am unfortunately probably isn't that polite) that I was hoping to talk about that to a doctor, not a receptionist; and she says something about how they need to know the nature of the problem so that they know who to give me an appointment with, and when to fit me in. (This is a far cry from when I actually asked the receptionist if I could see a doctor who specialised in depression, and was told rather patronisingly "They're all general practitioners, I think you'll find that they're all knowledgeable about that".) So I express surprise at this "new system" and am told that it is "surgery policy" and has always been like this. "Well, it hasn't any of the other times I've phoned up for an appointment..." Silence, before she launches back into the script.
Anyway, I make it quite clear that I don't want to talk about it, and eventually she asks for my name and phone number and says that somebody will ring me back to "advise me of an appointment". Huh? Wouldn't it have been easier for them to just give me a bloody appointment? Obviously not.
10 minutes later, the phone rings. It's the nurse from the practice. "What seems to be the problem?" I don't believe this. "I'd really rather not discuss it on the phone." More nonsense about how they have to know what the problem is otherwise they can't give me an appointment.
By this time I've had enough. "I think it's best if I just cancel the appointment." Suddenly everything's different. "Do you want to see a doctor or a nurse?" "I'd like to cancel the appointment." "No, no, we can make you an appointment, do you want to --" "I'd like to cancel the appointment, please." I have to repeat this six times to actually get through to the woman, who by this time is just blethering about how I can see anybody I want to see and she'll make me an appointment. When she finally gets the message, her final "O-kay, THANK you, GOOD bye" sounds like a primary school teacher trying to resist strangling a particularly annoying small child.
I don't like phones. I do not want to have a phone conversation about something that's a bit awkward to talk about anyway. All I wanted was 10 minutes in which to talk to a qualified doctor, and I should not have to threaten to cancel the appointment to even be offered that. I don't want to deal with these people if that's the new modus operandi. (Except, of course, it's not new; it's always been like that... and we have always been at war with Eurasia.) It has become steadily harder and harder to get an appointment at this practice over the last two years, and this is just the last straw.
Yes, I probably should have just given in when they started offering appointments, but frankly I just didn't want anything to do with them by that point. And the really worrying thing is that I know there's no way I could deal with that system if I was actually ill (rather than, as at the moment, needing a doctor's advice about an ongoing condition) -- I wouldn't have the energy to argue with them.
I wonder how easy it is to change practices. <sigh>
Update: Very easy. :-) Went to the practice that sion_a is registered with, said "I'd like to join", they said they weren't taking new patients (but would give me the address of a practice nearby which was); I said my partner was registered at their practice, and they said "Oh, that's okay then, we take family of existing patients". Filled in the forms, and that's it. And have made an appointment for first thing Monday morning. (They're happy to do appointments up to 6 weeks in advance, which is really very civilised.)