All of us have, at one point or another, felt somewhat disserviced by a medical professional. In many cases, such instances are a byproduct of human nature, in the form of a brusque nurse or no-nonsense GP. But in recent years, standards of care have been perceived to fall, and patients have reported feeling ‘sidelined’ by the NHS.
A report by the Patient’s Association revealed that patients felt they weren’t being treated compassionately by medical staff, and that many were not being properly informed about next steps for treatment and care. Between this and the increased difficulty many patients have in accessing primary care, the risk of feeling ignored about worrisome symptoms is worryingly high. What can you do if you are experiencing this personally?
Advocating for Yourself
It is important to understand two things here. First is that the NHS is not worsening out of choice, and that the great majority of medical professionals within it are working overtime to meet backlogs created by underfunding and administrative failure. The NHS strikes were partially about pay parity, but also about standards of care and the state of the NHS as it stands.
The second thing is that you are still within your rights to advocate for yourself within this system. Regular phone calls, switching GP surgeries, and second opinions are all viable routes to finding the right person to hear you out.
There are situations in which such medical dismissals or underestimations can have serious health-related consequences – the worst-case scenario for any patient experiencing difficulty being heard by a doctor. In theses cases, where failure to diagnose properly or at all has led to worsening health, there are possibilities for civil recourse via a medical negligence claim.
If you are able to demonstrate that primary care failure led to medical issues, you may be eligible to receive compensation for any physical, logistical and mental costs caused; this is a small comfort in the face of serious illness, but worthwhile to pursue.
Unfortunately, the one iron-clad route to receiving the medical care and attention you feel you need is a concession of sorts, in the form of turning to private care. Private facilities are incentivised by the fees they charge to fast-track patients, and to take care in listening to concerns. However, many private facilities are NHS facilities, practicing under a separate organisational framework. The costs associated do not necessarily equate to a higher quality of care, but do enable ‘queue-jumping’ from NHS waitlists and afford a guaranteed level of attention.
Obviously, this is not an ideal or long-term solution for any patient, particularly the vast majority of patients in the UK who cannot afford private care. Rather, this is seen to be the intended result of austerity-led NHS underfunding and mismanagement, and an ancillary step towards a private healthcare model. For those desperate for care, this may be a necessary evil – but true change can only come with political will, and public pressure.