Sick of waiting for a doctor to be on time

I would like to know at what point in history the time of doctors became more valuable than ours. No other small business could afford to treat their clients with the indifference and discourtesy that is regularly shown to the unfortunates who seek medical assistance.

There’s no point getting a blood pressure check if you’ve been languishing in a waiting room for 40 minutes with your blood set to a gentle simmer. If it wasn’t up when you got there, it surely will be by now.

If a medical appointment is for 10am, it is not unreasonable to expect to see the doctor by 10.10am, 10.15am at a stretch. But somehow, delays of 30 minutes or more have become routine in the waiting rooms of this nation.

Imagine visiting a hairdresser for a 10am appointment. You arrive a few minutes early or perhaps right on time, and settle down with an ageing copy of a magazine. Before you’ve even finished the celebrity gossip page, you’re shown a seat amid great apology for the two-minute wait and offered a cup of tea. But even though we are paying for a service, that’s never going to happen at a doctor’s appointment.

We have been trained to expect that some sort of medical emergency has taken place but in the absence of bleeding heads, missing limbs, rampant itching disorders and lungs being coughed up in the waiting room, I’m mystified by these routine delays – ‘slippage’ it’s called – and even more so by why we have to tolerate it.

Can all these scenarios really occur so regularly? Can it really be that nine out of 10 doctors expect their patients to wait a minimum of 15 minutes, sometimes up to an hour, to see them?

The molehill turned into a mountain for me just before Christmas when I arrived for my medical appointment five minutes early. I took a seat beside a fellow who’d nodded off. (Perhaps that was a sign.) Anyway, 20 minutes later he was called into the consulting room and emerged after about 10 minutes. The door remained open and nobody else went in. I’d now been waiting 30 minutes and was assured I was the next patient. Add another five minutes for good measure and I was finally ushered in, managing a brief smile through gritted teeth.

An almost inescapable conclusion is that doctors routinely overbook. Whether they do it out of human compassion or to keep their numbers (read profits) up for the day, the simple fact is that patients are routinely expected to wait for up to an hour without complaint.

If the appointment is 10am then it is not unreasonable to expect to see a doctor within 10 minutes of arrival for said appointment. Not even I would dare to expect to go in right on time. Please, just book me an hour later so I don’t have to stew in a toxic waiting room, being coughed over by other sick people. My time’s precious too.