My request to see my medical notes has sparked all-out panic at the GP surgery.
‘What do you mean?’ said the receptionist who answered the phone when I called to ask. She sounded even more furious than the time I rang to ask if I could possibly have an appointment to see the doctor. On that occasion, she affected her best Lady Bracknell impression, ‘The doctor? You want to see the doctor?’
‘Well, yes if it isn’t too much trouble,’ I spluttered, as she audibly bashed her keyboard in ill-disguised rage at my impertinence.
On this occasion, she was horribly icy. ‘I mean,’ I stammered, ‘I want to see my medical notes, as the law entitles me.’
‘The law?’ she said. A haaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaand-bag!
‘Yes, I understand, reading the legislation, that I am entitled to view my notes.’
‘They’re not your notes. They’re OUR property!’
‘Really? Well, in any case, I’m entitled to…’
‘Why do you want to see them?’
Oh dear, she’s going to have me struck off the patient list for being a subversive. I will never get a doctor’s appointment again. Possibly they will have me sectioned and locked away.
‘Well, e-hem, as I understand it, I don’t have to give a reason…’
‘YES YOU DO!’ she yelled.
‘No, I really don’t,’ I said. And I read out the relevant sentence in the NHS guidelines, which I had on the laptop screen in front of me. Silence. ‘You see, I don’t have to tell you why.’
‘I never said you did!’
‘Yes, you did. You said exactly that just a second ago.’
‘Well, you’ll have to put your request in writing!’
‘Who shall I put it in writing to?’
‘The practice manager!’
‘And their name is?’
She gasped with exasperation before saying a name that was so utterly impossible to guess how to spell I had to ask, and she spelt the name by spitting every letter like a shot of venom.
And so I duly put my request in writing and delivered it by hand to the surgery. That was six months ago, and the other day I remembered that I had still heard nothing. Not even the courtesy of an acknowledgment.
I rang again and the same woman yelled, ‘I don’t know anything about this! What request?’
I explained again and then I heard a woman sitting next to her murmuring that she had been sitting on my request because she couldn’t find my contact details.
‘But they’re on my letter,’ I said.
‘NO THEY’RE NOT!’
‘Right, I’m calling up a copy of my letter on my laptop now and …yes, my address is on the top.’
‘I never said it wasn’t!’
‘Oh Lordy. Look, can I just come and see my medical notes?’
‘I’m not saying you can’t!’
Let’s be clear: there’s no implication or complication for them to show me my notes. They just don’t want to. A patient exercising her rights makes a GP surgery want to lock its doors and hammer large pieces of crooked wood over the windows.
They don’t want me to have information. They don’t want me to know my arse from my elbow, if possible, so they can tell me which is which, according to which way round suits them. If it serves them for me to think my bottom is halfway up my arm, then that is what they will give me to believe.
‘Please, let me explain,’ I said, trying to be nice. ‘I am entitled to make what is known as a Subject Access Request…’
‘I’m not saying you can’t see them!’ There was pure hysteria in her voice now.‘But you will have to come and sit in a secure room and we will have to sit with you.’
‘On what legal basis?’
‘Which part of the legislation says that you can sit with me while I look?’
‘Legis ..Look! I never said that!’
‘Oh, please. Can you just let me see my medical notes?’
‘We have to secure you a safe place to view them in,’ she said, digging deep into her Pocket Guide to Public Sector Obfuscation, ‘and it has to be in the surgery and it can’t be when the surgery is busy.’
So never then. The surgery is always full to bursting. ‘So when?’ I asked.
‘It has to be at lunchtime,’ she said, ‘between 1.30 and …er …2.45!’
She was making this up as she went along.
‘Fine,’ I said. ‘That suits me.’
‘Any day at all. I can come any day you want.’ Silence. Horrible, furious silence.
Eventually she told me she couldn’t possibly tell me what day I could come without going away and thinking about it. She said she would get back to me with ‘an appointment’. I’m not holding my breath.
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