Someone rear-ended my car yesterday while I was waiting in a queue of traffic. My 8 year old ASD son was in the car with me at the time; thankfully he wasn't hurt, though I am now nursing whiplash.
We went to see the GP, the two of us, because although he seemed uninjured, it's not easy to get him to explain where or if he is hurting and I thought that if I was in pain, he may very well be but not be reacting. After the collision, he just sat there in the car, staring straight ahead, saying nothing at all.
So what do you think the GP's very first words were after we sat down and told him we had just had a car accident?
He said, "Well, you know I'm going to have to charge you for the consultation, because we count these as private appointments. It'll probably be around £50, because if we get contacted by the insurance company it can create a lot of paperwork."
So, to recap, I am sitting, in pain, in his office, with my autistic son, after a car crash that was no fault of our own and before asking us if we are hurt, he asks for payment. Does this mean if we can't afford to pay he won't examine us? I had said nothing about it being in case we wanted to make a claim, I just wanted to make sure that we did not need medical intervention.
Shocked at his attitude and by the collision itself, I burst into tears, told him his receptionist didn't mention a charge (although she knew we had had an accident) and I didn't care if he wanted to charge us for the consultation, I just wanted to make sure my son was okay.
He then, completely unembarrassed, explained that the reason they charged was, "firstly, because we're entitled to, and secondly because we have to fill out forms."
Entitled to? If I'm not mistaken, are we not entitled to a medical examination because he is a well-paid NHS doctor, we are on his list and that's why we pay National Insurance?
He then magnanimously gave us both a perfunctory exam to check movement and said he wouldn't charge us this time (as if we make a habit of having our car rear-ended) but he wouldn't fill out any paperwork either (which I had not asked him to do in the first place as I hadn't even considered injury compensation). He said if we wanted to make a claim we'd have to come back for another examination which he would charge us for.
Later, at home, I couldn't work out if I was more upset by the accident or by the doctor. While I understand that insurance claims create paperwork, his attitude was appalling. He could perhaps have explained that should we wish to make an insurance claim there would then be a charge rather than giving the impression that if we wanted to be examined we would have to cough up.
Is this what our increasingly litigious society had created? Angels of Mercenary rather than angels of mercy? Doctors whose first thought is their wallets rather than their patients?
This same surgery has also recently introduced an automatic phone system on a local call charge. This means if you have an inclusive call package, you end up paying extra as it's an 0845 number and then you have to wait in a queue, racking up the call cost before being told you're 18th in line for a connection. Previously, you'd get a busy signal if it was engaged, hang up and try again in a few minutes which I think is infinitely preferable. I wonder who benefits from the revenue the lo-call number generates? Dr Mercenary, presumably.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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