So it turns out I’m a bit of an idiot. Maybe if I’d plumped for a darker wig I’d be less of a dumb blonde. My last couple of posts have made reference to my increasingly quixotic quest to get an appointment with my GP in order to request a referral to the Gender Clinic. If that has passed you by, worry not. I’m going to give you the full sorry tale.
I called into the surgery in person on Thursday 5th May and asked for an appointment with the family doctor. I was informed that there were no appointments available, and that he was booked solid until early June. Each week’s worth of appointments is released en bloc, and the next block for week commencing 6th June would be released for booking the following Monday, 9th May. The receptionist also suggested that I register for online appointment booking, because it can often be quite difficult to get through to the surgery by phone. Well that seemed reasonable.I went home that day and tried booking online, only to be told that unsurprisingly there were no appointments available. Just to be safe, I tried again on Friday 6th, Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th, with the same result. However on the morning of Monday 9th, I logged on confidently expecting to get an appointment. Not a chance. No appointments available. I tried several times that day, to no avail. When there were still no appointments available the next day, I phoned the practice again. I was told that the next block of appointments had still not been released, and if the online system says there are no appointments, then there are no appointments, no need to phone as they are looking at the same system. So I kept trying to book online.
I tried two or three times daily from Tuesday 10th May right through until yesterday, Monday 23rd May. All with the same response. Mrs K also tried booking online using her ID, as she has succesfully booked an appointment before, but the system also told her that there were no appointments available. So by yesterday afternoon I was in despair, wondering if there was actually a doctor that worked in the surgery at all or if it was just a big con. I called the surgery from work:
“Hello, medical centre”
“Hi, I’d like to make an appointment with Dr Smith please”
“OK, what’s your name”
“OK… er, sorry Bob, I have just given out Dr Smith’s last appointment for the 17th of June. There’s no more available now”
“But I have been trying for nearly three weeks every day to get an appointment, and there are never any available. The last I checked on 10th May the doctor was only booked up to 3rd June. How do you get an appointment when there are never any available?”
“You need to phone the practice. The online system only books two weeks in advance.”
“But the doctor is always booked up more than two weeks in advance, so the online system is basically useless isn’t it?”
“Well no, it’s just the doctor is particularly busy the last couple of months”
“When will the next block of appointments come available then?”
“Well we’re very busy and there’s holidays coming up so it’ll probably be the end of next week before we’re able to make more bookings. But if you phone in every day at 8.30am you might be able to get a cancellation.”
“No, I need a set appointment so I can arrange to get out of work.”
“I’m sorry then, it’ll probably be the end of next week before we can book anything”
And there you have it. I first approached the doctor’s surgery on Thursday 5th May to make an appointment. The earliest I will actually get to make the appointment will be maybe Thursday 2nd June, and the earliest the appointment will actually be wil be Monday 20th June. That’s the best case scenario, but given recent experience I don’t have a great deal of faith that those dates will be met. And at least two weeks of that delay is down to misinformation to me from the receptionist at that first visit and to my own stupidity for not phoning the surgery regardless of what she told me. If she had never mentioned online bookings I would probably have less than two weeks to wait now until seeing the doctor. As it is, the wait continues. The agonising wait to actually step on to the conveyor belt. The frustration became too much for me after ending the call – it wasn’t the wait in itself, I mean if the doctor is busy he’s busy, but the unneccesary extension of the wait due to being given poor information that really got to me, the fact that I had been clicking away on this app every day when I could have just called the surgery a fortnight ago and made a booking. I held it together long enough to get to the loo, lock myself in a cubicle and let out five minutes’ worth of tears and sobs.
After I emerged back out on to the open plan office floor, I must have still been exhibiting the red panda eyes of the recently tearful, because my friend Lauren immediately came up to me and asked what was wrong. It was a rare day in the office for her, as she started a new role back in January which means she is out on the road most of the time. It also means that I haven’t really had the opportunity to have a good talk with her recently, or even to let her know about my plans for transition. That was about to change. At first I had a half-hearted attempt to make out like nothing was wrong, but she was having none of it, so I told her what was going on;
“You know that thing that you know about me that nobody else in here knows?”
“Well I have been trying to make an appointment to see my GP about it”
Lauren could never be described as a woman with little to say for herself, but I think I had dumbfounded her with that line.
“I’m having a very frustrating time trying to get an appointment with my doctor to ask for a referral to the Gender Clinic.”
“What? Really? What brought this on? Are you out more frequently now?”
“No, not really, but that’s more down to a lack of opportunity than anything else.”
“But that means you’ll have to tell your kids, and everyone in here. Are you just looking to check out your options or are you definitely going the whole hog?”
“It’s not the sort of thing you do just to check out your options. Really I know what my options are. But I’m not saying definitely anything until it happens.”
“So when is it going to happen?”
“Why next year? Why not now? What’s so special about next year?”
“It’s just what I agreed with Mrs K, one last year of normality, one last Summer holiday and one last Christmas…”
“…and then tell the kids early January?”
“That’s right, and coming out in here too.”
“Well I suppose there’s never really a perfect time to tell them, there’ll always be a reason not to, so you just need to decide on a time and do it. Wow. Oh my god. Keep me posted on how things go.”
I will do just that. She also asked about what the process was, what the surgery was, how long it all took, and to be honest I don’t even know all the answers to that although I have a fair idea. But you know what? Just telling her, a work friend, that I intend to transition makes it feel more real. I actually feel like I have made it more likely that I’m going to go through with this, and that she is already on-side, that I have an ally. When she’s actually here, of course. So from sobbing in despair (or in the loo to be precise) to feeling quite positive within about 10 minutes. Isn’t it great what a chat with a sympathetic friend can achieve?