Magazine article The Spectator

Status: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Status: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

Whenever I try to use the NHS I end up feeling like Bruce Willis's character in The Sixth Sense . No one can see me. It is as if I don't exist. And unlike Dr Malcolm Crowe in the movie, I have not, as I wait in hospital and GP surgery queues, found an ally with a special gift which enables him to see me when no one else can.

No one has ever come up to me and whispered: 'I see sick people!' Instead, I languish like a ghost in every south London minor injury clinic, A&E and doctor's surgery.

Recently, I received a letter informing me that my local GP surgery was closing and I would have to go elsewhere. While I was impressed that they had at least managed to acknowledge my existence by telling me to bugger off, I felt this was a bit of a cheek.

I was sent to this particular surgery a few years ago by another surgery who chucked me out. On that occasion I didn't even receive a letter. They simply stopped acknowledging my existence.

I went up to the counter one day to ask for an appointment and the receptionist denied I was anything to do with them. When I tried to argue, she threatened me with security. After I burst into tears, she grudgingly looked me up and explained I had been the casualty of a 'boundary change'.

I re-registered with the nearest GP I could find to my flat: a tiny surgery two streets away where they were happy to take me on and where I have been desperately trying to get them to treat me for various minor complaints ever since, usually succeeding after several visits, relentless bombardments of telephone calls and threats to throw myself off bridges. You may remember it took me so long to persuade them to treat me for the menopause I was through the worst of it by the time I got my hands on hard drugs.

On one occasion, the practice nurse jabbed me extra hard with a tetanus vaccination after I complained about waiting times. I had to threaten them with the information commissioner after they refused to let me see my medical notes: 'they're our property!'

But I have had some kind of service. So I was slightly sorry to get the letter giving me the boot again, and informing me of other surgeries I might traipse round -- a process called 'NHS Choices'. …

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