If you need your head examined…check your funds!

I said when I started this blog that it wasn’t going to be anything too serious, but after the events of the past few weeks I feel the need to share my frustration and real disbelief at the lack of care shown by a GP!

When a young adult makes an appointment to speak to their GP about their mental health, a certain amount of courage has been deployed, just to get that far. When it’s not the first time they have made an appointment to discuss it, it suggests they really do need help.

Now, I think it only fair to clarify a few circumstantial facts: This GP is part of a practice in the city where she is at University, so not the GP who has known her since she was 7 years old but that said, I don’t feel that the family GP in this case was much better! Neither had the wherewithal nor the time to engage and really listen to what they were being told. So, they made a rapid and incorrect diagnosis and prescribed medication which didn’t help the underlying symptoms. It then took a lot of reading and research to try and understand the symptoms and possible causes and, while I’m a little hesitant to describe it as such, a pretty good self diagnosis was arrived at in the process. First point to make, therefore, would be that if you don’t know how to treat the person in front of you, refer them to an expert who does.

But, what was needed in the first instance was a letter to pass to the student support team which would release some small funds for special software and some additional pastoral and administrative support. But it seemed that, in haste to fit the consultation in to a 10minute window, the GP was more concerned about being paid and explaining how she could pay him directly to his bank account, than listening to what she had to say. I find this unbelievably unprofessional but sadly not surprising given past experience. Action was needed.

Now, I am extremely fortunate to have a number of friends who are in the medical profession from senior nurse practitioners to plastic surgeons and Consultants so it’s fair to say that whenever I have a medical dilemma I usually know someone I can call to ask advice. In this case I was only able to establish that our incredible NHS is severely underfunded when it comes to mental health but I was so lucky to be put in touch with and talk to someone who shared her own experience with me concerning her sons. I was so grateful to her for her candid account of what they had gone through. So now we had a plan. We needed an appointment with a specialist but unless we were willing to go into battle with the GP to get a referral and potentially wait months to be seen, we had no option but to go privately. Just two weeks later, we had 2 consultations completed and a treatment plan. Someone who had asked a lot of questions and listened to what they were being told has then given a proper diagnosis. Fantastic!

However, there is one hitch……the cost! I kid you not when I say that the first 2 appointments (via Skype) and the next follow up appointment (also via Skype) to review the effectiveness of the initial treatment, was high enough that had I not had savings, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. There is nothing I wouldn’t do where the health of my family is concerned, I would have sold something to pay for it if necessary, but I am lucky that, despite still being unemployed after redundancy, I have funds that I can draw from in times of need. Money towards my pension or that rainy day everyone talks about. And I spend it gladly to know that my child can move forward with knowledge and tools to deal with the condition. The clinic we went to has also offered to help us find a suitable GP who will be able to take on the shared care which will considerably cut the costs of the monthly prescriptions and medication. Thank goodness!

I am however, so very sad that this highlights the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” and this isn’t about luxuries, this is about healthcare. There will be thousands of families and young adults out there who are not able to go down the private route and are therefore not getting the help they need. Mental health, whether psychological or psychiatric, is life affecting for more people than we can ever know, and a proper diagnosis, treatment and support is essential. It also has to stop being such a taboo. It shouldn’t be seen any differently from cancer, diabetes or broken bones. The sooner it is part of the wider dialogue, the sooner there will be more understanding of how it affects people and will cease to be hidden.

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