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Healthcare is one of the most important, universal amenities that all of us need here at university. It is well known that for the first term of each academic year the new crop of freshers fall sick with the notorious ‘freshers’ flu’ and further down the line stress related illnesses, both physical and mental, affect us all. It is with this in mind that the GP services need to be cautious of how they deal with their patients, specifically ones that are also students. Having used various practices myself I have some strong opinions about how GP surgeries manage their student patients, particularly in the process of booking appointments and being seen by doctors or nurses.
Given the current condition of the NHS the need to talk about the quality of our healthcare grows more and more important, especially as we are becoming the generation who will soon be the main employees of the NHS. I asked fellow students on social media about their experiences with GP healthcare I received several messages detailing several issues. I must stress the stories mentioned in this article are only a handful of over thirty accounts I received in less than four hours. So what are the main issues surrounding healthcare provisions for students today?
The first issue is the fact that the country as a whole doesn’t have enough doctors for the demand we have as an ageing population. University towns, such as Lancaster, are no exception, and the additional influx of students may harshen strain on an already limited pool of GPs. This may be the case but from what I understand nobody has any issues with the GPs themselves. I even left beaming feedback for the doctor that saw me last. In several accounts, from those who reached out to me, they recall their doctors being especially apologetic of the issues their patients experienced in the process of securing appointments.
There are even issues when a practice has a triage team attached. This is a service specifically for emergency appointments in mornings which not all practices have. In the past I have had difficulty actually getting one of these emergency appointments. Last year I had a dermatological issue that involved a great level of pain, discomfort and embarrassment, yet when I contacted the practice at 8am I was denied essential medical care. This led to me having to walk into the GP office, and show the reception staff the severity of this condition to finally be seen by a doctor. This made me feel so uncomfortable and angry that I filed a complaint with the surgery.
One of the students I spoke to explained that they had a very intimate and sensitive health care issue that needed immediate attention, they were not registered with the GP but were told they could fill out a temporary registration form with the purpose of being seen that same day. The student told me that when they got to their practice to register they were initially denied the appointment and was expected to explain their condition, which in a room full of other patients is uncomfortable at best. After being ushered to a side room to explain their condition to a member of reception staff, they said, they were finally given the appointment they needed.
Another told me about how a tonsil infection, that prevented them from eating or drinking out of pain, was not given any care from their GP practice. After attempts at being put through tests to uncover where the cause of their pain lay, they ended up in the hospital because of what they felt was negligent care.
There are also concerns at a wider, NHS, level that some medical staff are dismissive of issues around anxiety and depression.
These issues need to be analysed in more depth to understand if they are isolated cases or signifiers of larger problems across healthcare provisions across the whole country.
Another student explained to me that getting the medication prescription they needed has been an uphill battle filled with issues over admin issues. They mentioned issues over registration taking two weeks, even though forms were filled out correctly and constant issues over doctors having access to their notes which include the information needed to prescribe what the student needed. One of the biggest issues students face is that students usually have two addresses, one at their university residence and one at their home, whereas some practices rely on them only having one.
We are, for the most part, living away from family for the first time in our lives and health issues are one of the most scary, stressful things anybody has to go through. Students deserve to feel like they can access the healthcare they need without having to bargain and beg their way into appointments. I understand that resources are tight right now, and that there isn’t an intentional disconnect in the standard of care we expect and the dismissal a lot of us students experience. But it’s also important we critique and discuss the shortcomings of the NHS a lot of us rely on. When this moves into issues around mental health, which affect one in four students on average the fundamental need for a compassionate, professional and appropriately discreet service is just non negotiable.
As someone who personally has suffered from mental health issues in the past I would feel very unsure about reaching out for help and care because of the stories I have heard, some of which I’ve recounted above. I must stress that the stories I have mentioned are again a small sample of numerous accounts from students with different issues relating to the care received. I don’t claim to be an expert on the inner workings of the NHS, but one thing I know for sure is that regardless of strains on resources, patients deserve an extremely high quality experience from their practice.