I had a doctor's appointment the other day, and happily, it was Dr W, my GP of many years, just back from her maternity leave. The whole DLA, GP on leave, locum doctor who wouldn't listen to me thing has finally become much, much more clear.
(Brief recap for any new readers: earlier this year I got turned down for half my disability benefit largely on the basis of a report by Dr M, a locum who was covering the maternity leave of Dr W. This baffled and upset me as Dr W has always supported my benefit claim - it was her who insisted I stop work. Dr M reported that I suffer from depression, and that I have no difficulty doing many everyday tasks. This is inaccurate.)
It boils down to: Dr W is an extremely good GP. However, she would be a rubbish data entry clerk.
If you were to read the actual notes that Dr W has written about me over the last couple of years, they are covered in terms like "ME", "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome", "Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome" and so on. They describe problems I have and how I overcome them, medications that have been tried and the effects they had, how I got on at the specialist ME/CFS clinic, everything you could want to know. You would see copies of the sicknotes with "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" written large and clear, right up to the date when the DWP decided I didn't need to submit sicknotes any more.
If, however, you were only to glance at the front page of my computerised medical notes, you would have seen:
"Current ongoing conditions: none"
You would also see a note from the late 1990s suggesting I should be monitored for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The significantly more recent psychiatrist's letter giving me a mental health all-clear, is jumbled up with the reports from every other investigation into the possible causes of my illness that I underwent at that time - psychiatrist, neurologist, physiotherapist, and probably the butcher, baker and candlestick maker for good measure. You wouldn't see it unless you hunted for it.
Add to this, that I am not one of "those" patients, who marches off to the doctor every couple of weeks clutching an article about some revolutionary new cure or treatment or research. Since the Incapacity Benefit people decided I didn't have to provide sicknotes any more, I haven't actually been to see my GP about the whole ME thing, I've just turned up when I start oozing. Okay, so my tendency to get the sort of tonsillitis or ear infection that makes a practised GP recoil in horror and begin writing the scrip for antibiotics before they've even sat back down is because of the ME, but that's beside the point. If you look at the summaries of my recent visits on the notes, they're nothing to do with the ME.
So, let's look at my encounters with Dr M from a more sympathetic point of view.
A patient wobbles slowly into the consulting room, leaning on a walking stick and pulling faces. She gasps as she sits down, and explains she has come to see you about an ear infection. You look in her ear and sure enough, it's gunky. You look at her throat and that doesn't look too healthy either. You ask about other symptoms and she says that although she's having a bit more difficulty with certain things, it's just like an extra helping of her normal symptoms.
You quickly look at the notes on the screen. No ongoing conditions, the last thing she was here for was a throat infection, what's going on? What "normal symptoms"? What's with the stick? You ask what she means and she looks at you a bit funny before saying "the ME, or CFS, or whatever you want to call it." You spot a flag telling you to monitor her for mental health problems. Gently you ask a couple more questions. The patient says she's been like this for a couple of years, and no longer has a job. You can't quite make up your mind whether she's actually ill, or if she's a benefit scrounger, or if she's under some kind of delusion that she suffers a physical illness - she seems quite certain that it should be on her notes somewhere - but right now it's not terribly important. She has come here with an ear infection, she very obviously HAS an ear infection, so let's treat that and leave the rest for another day. Then, when you think you're home free, she tells you her benefit is being reviewed and that you may get a letter through asking for a GP's report. Great.
This also explains why Dr M was kind of obstructive when I asked to see my medical records. It could be psychologically damaging for a delusional person to read that their family GP thinks that they are delusional...
Dr W has of course apologised and corrected the front page. She's also made sure to put in plenty of information in the notes for our recent consultation a couple of days ago that might be important for whatever new doctor I get in Leamington - basically making sure the relevant details are at the top for a new GP. Yes, I realise there is a possibility that I am delusional and she is humouring me, or that I hallucinated the whole thing. But that just gets too metaphysical. I shall stick with the logic that, if the psychiatrists don't want to try and treat me, or even put me on a waiting list, and I'm not on psychiatric medication, and I'm not crying all the time, then I'm okay in that respect.
In other news... Stage One of the move has gone well. I will write more about it another time. For now, suffice to say that I am in one piece, partially unpacked, and very happy.