Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Hobson's Prescription Choice

When is a choice not a choice?

A: When it's offered on the repeat prescription order form at my doctor's website.
My doctor's surgery is over a mile away, as are all of the pharmacies. There are very few buses that pass any of them, so generally, I have to walk. As one outing per week is the absolute maximum I can manage - that will cost me 5 days recovering and one resting before I am able to tackle the next - I plan carefully to maximise what I do on any one outing.

As I couldn't go out twice in one week - oh, I have tried and the resultant crash and pain was unbelievably severe and unbearable - I'll order my prescription a week (they only want 48 hours notice) in advance of whenever my next outing is, so I can pick it up while passing. (And I'm sufficiently organized that I get my Google calendar to send me emails to remind me when to order another repeat prescription and when and where to pick it up.)

Last time I had an appointment at a hospital that I needed to get to by train, so I chose the chemist that I would pass on the way to the station and had the prescription sent there. All I had to do was walk in, tell them my name and collect it, no waiting around. Brilliant! So far, so wonderful, eh? Not so fast!

This time, however, because the weather is too bad for me to venture out at all and I haven't been feeling well enough anyway, I ordered my prescription with my customary week's grace, only this time I elected to have it sent to the chemist further down the main street, a couple of doors down from the charity shop where my mother works, so she could pop in and collect it for me.

If I had been able to go out myself, that was the day of the meeting of my pain group and this second chemist was also the nearest to there for me to have been able to pick it up myself on my way to the meeting. If I'd had to collect the prescription from the surgery or the previous chemist, I'd have had to walk right across town, as well as, potentially, the mile and a bit to get there. If I'd had some other appointment or my mother had been going shopping elsewhere, another of the chemists may have been more suitable and I don't think it wholly unreasonable to be able choose the one that is most convenient each time.

The surgery website offers a drop-down list of chemists, so it looks like patients have a choice, drop-down lists on internet forms are meant to offer choices, so I attempted to avail myself of it, for reasons that I feel make perfect sense.

On Thursday, mother tried to collect the prescription, but the relevant chemist had nothing. I phoned to double check, quoting the date I'd ordered it and they confirmed that had nothing on their computer. So I phoned the surgery to ask them to track it. After a bit of going round in circles, checking to see if maybe it had gone to the first chemist and not the second and without actually admitting what had happened, she finally said that they had the prescription in the surgery and I would have to pick it up from there. In other words, they'd "decided" not to send the prescription to the chemist I'd chosen, but didn't let me know.

Collecting it from the surgery isn't ideal and is something I try to avoid, unless I'm actually going to see the doctor there, because that means waiting around twice. There's usually a long queue in the surgery to collect the prescription, then another in the chemist for 20 - 30 minutes for the drugs to be dispensed. If there is a chair free in there it's a miracle, but even if there is, it causes me great pain to sit for the length of time required. There is no way I can stand in line.

Of course I told the receptionist why I had chosen the chemist I had, but the upshot is that - despite the appearance of a choice being offered - you can't swap and change chemist, because that would be "too confusing", she says. I fail to see why. For whom exactly? Not to me, it isn't. And that's it - she's going to leave it set for me to collect from the surgery in future, which means double journeys.

Not having these choices is going to cause me lots of inconvenience, plus additional pain and exhaustion every time I have to wait around or go to a location I wasn't already passing. Yes, I should have realized it would be a total misconception to assume that the National Health Service was in any way supposed to provide a service to the patient! / Rant over.