Real life

My life in ailments

My medical notes were my biography in ear infections and rashes

7 March 2015

9:00 AM

7 March 2015

9:00 AM

My request to see my medical notes was granted in the end. I honestly don’t know why I wanted to see them, really. I’m just one of those people who suspects the worst of the state, and other large organisations, so if I get the chance to have a peek into what they’ve been up to behind my back I take it.

This was my second Subject Access Request. The first was of the RSPCA, who I got a tad suspicious about after writing several critical articles and attracting weirdly sour-sounding complaints from them in which they claimed I was only criticising them because I was a supporter of hunting. That put my back up slightly. So I demanded to see everything in their possession that mentioned me.

They granted my request, eventually, but when I got the slim package through the post it wasn’t very enlightening. It consisted of various emails between staff members in which I was discussed and went something like this:

‘Hi xxxxxxxx. Melissa Kite rang us today to ask about xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. We xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxx. We also xxxxxxxxxxxxx. If xxxxxxxxxxxxx then we can xxxxxxxxxxx.’ I’m paraphrasing, but you get the picture. They had taken advantage of a neat trick called redaction, which allows any organisation to oil out of freedom of information by blocking out anything they don’t want you to see. As a result, I am left with the impression that the RSPCA is a xxxxxxxxxxxxxx of an organisation that xxxxxxxxxxxxx all over people’s xxxxxxxxxxx in order to xxxxxxxxxxxxx.

But that’s another issue. After an initial panic, the GP surgery was very nice about my request and unlike the RSPCA they didn’t redact a thing. The receptionist handed me my medical notes in a bundle and sat me down in a deserted waiting room during lunchtime. She then sat herself at the far end of the room looking the other way to make sure I was supervised while not having my privacy invaded. They’d thought this through, you see.

I opened up the bundle and there it was. My life in ailments. My biography in rashes and ear infections. I had only a ‘minor past’, according to the notes. And this consisted mainly of eczema; dermatitis; and something called otalgia, which is just earache, really. Skin tag; injury to toe; vaccinations (travel); hot flushes; injury to toe — oh, the endless broken toes, stamped on by horses.

The most interesting thing was a catty comment by the practice nurse after I went to get a tetanus shot after a horse bite. I had had the temerity to request a referral to a private clinic for an X-ray as I couldn’t be bothered to wait any more hours in the seventh circle of hell that is my local A&E. I’d already waited most of the previous night to no avail.

I remember her being very cross about this and jabbing me so hard with the tetanus I thought she was going to take my arm off. In the notes, she remarks that she had to provide details of a private clinic, then snaps, ‘Doubtful that will be seen.’ Oo, get you, Comrade! Insinuating a patient’s an irresponsible fly-by-night just because she’s opting out of the NHS.

I called over the nice receptionist, who was staring really hard at a blank wall in an attempt not to violate my human rights, and demanded she correct the record to reflect that I did get my hand X-rayed, even though I am clearly a callous right-winger who wants to starve the NHS of funds by depriving it of my horse bite and paying an evil private clinic to X-ray me more quickly.

She agreed that Comrade Nursey’s comment was a bit uncalled for, and, while they couldn’t strike it from the record, the note would be amended to reflect the fact that I had not neglected the hole in my hand just to spite the proletariat.

I scanned through the rest of the notes — mainly ‘painful ears’. Oh yes, that was when I was going through a phase of thinking my mobile phone was giving me head tumours. I’m still not entirely convinced it’s not.

‘Haemorrhagic cyst — poor experience.’ You’re not kidding. On that occasion the good old local hospital not only lost me in the wrong ward for two days, it failed to do the slightest thing to treat me. They insisted on my remaining encysted. I had to discharge myself all the way to Harley Street where a private specialist took out three lumps the size of golf balls.

However, I will say one thing about state healthcare. They have me down for two ‘planned events’: a ‘seasonal influenza vaccination’ in 2037, and on December 12, 2046 they are going to do something called an ‘elderly health assessment’.

Well worth a lifetime of national insurance contributions.


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  • Helen of Troy

    Lovely. Meantime, I avoid doctors like the plague, remain robustly healthy, and do not patronize the NHS.

    • Pootles

      Perhaps being ‘robustly healthy’ is the reason why you can ‘avoid doctors like the plague’, rather than the reverse. And, I thought you lived in the US?

      • Helen of Troy

        I had private health coverage when I lived there, just in case anything serious happened (it didn’t). If I return, I’ll do the same. I can’t explain every detail of my circs in every post as that would be tedious. I believe also in ‘thinker, heal thyself’ so avoiding docs has more complex an origin than you suggest.

        • Pootles

          Right ho. But, speaking personally, without medical science I would be dead. Also, I was born with a range of chronic problems that are partly alleviated by doctors and medical science. They are problems that no amount of ‘thinking’ is going to sort out.

          • Helen of Troy

            Oh I understand. I just think the world is divided into those that only use medical science when they need it, and those that run to the doctor for every little thing (any excuse will do).

          • Pootles

            Probably. I do have one member of my family who falls into the latter category, but manages to mix it with real problems every now and then – just to keep the doctors on their toes…