Sunday, January 13, 2008

GP Phone line Scandal

I was totally shocked to open my phone bill yesterday to discover that it was much higher than usual. Surely I couldn't have gone that mad voting for Alesha to win Strictly Come Dancing?

The cause of this high bill totally shocked me. Regular readers will know that both my husband and I have been ill over the holidays, Bob being quite seriously affected. We have spent more time at our GP surgery than we ever have before. Trouble is, the only way of getting an appointment is to ring on the day. If you don't ring early, you will simply not be seen that day and you'll have to go through it all again tomorrow. Bob was so ill that I couldn't take the chance of having to wait.

When you ring up the first thing you hear is "This is the Medical Practice, please wait until we connect you to the surgery." Most of the time, the next thing the artificial voice says is "We are experiencing high call volumes. Please call back at a less busy time."

This is just frustrating, so you would think - but for each one of those abortive calls, we were charged £0.095 plus VAT. The total sum wasted on calls to the surgery was £15.68. In two weeks. Now, we can afford to take that kind of unexpected hit. Many people who would be contacting the surgery could not. The other important point is that our phone deal gives us free calls to UK numbers as long as they don't start with 08 or 09. Our Practice has an 08 number which will be charged much more highly from mobiles. Having landlines is increasingly uncommon among those on low incomes because of the high connection costs.

GPs are usually the first point of contact you have with the health service when you are ill. It is an absolute outrage that people should have to pay such high rates to access this vital service. Again we see those on lower incomes being penalised more than the rich.

I think we should have a campaign for all GP's surgeries to be accessible by a landline with a local exchange number with no call charge if you are unable to get through to the queue. Wh ultimately pockets my £15.68? Is it the phone company or the surgery?

This scandalous practice must end and people have to be able to make appointments with their GP at minimal cost to themselves.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Strictly Come Exercise

I'm trying to ease myself gradually into a routine of healthy eating and exercising. I've done the yoyo dieting often enough to realise that going cold turkey on everything that is remotely pleasurable in life is not going to lead to anything good so I'm trying to make little changes, a step at a time.

If I was going to have a hope of losing the weight I need to without moderating my eating habits, I'd have to get on the treadmill now and stay there for the next 50 years, so there will have to be some progress on the food front at some stage. I have started reasonably well with the exercise, though - I've done a lot of swimming so far this year, and have Aquafit and Pilates classes booked for later this week.

Anna and I had some fun tonight having a go at the Strictly Come Dancercise DVD. I say having a go, but clearly it's going to take some time before I can cha cha cha like Alesha Dixon.

Given that I have no co-ordination whatsoever and that the presenting dancers, Erin Boag and Karen Hardy look as though they weigh the same as one of my arms, even buying the DVD might seem like insane and irrational optimism. It was actually great fun, though. I doubt I managed 10% of the steps, but Anna did really well and I think we'll keep doing it.

Just as well I'm doing this for my health. Gordon Brown's comments the other day about restricting NHS treatment to the likes of smokers and the obese made me so angry. If the Government had put sufficient resources into effective health promotion, invested in sport, done more to encourage breastfeeding which has been shown to prevent obesity and all sorts of things, then we might not be in the unhealthy mess we are in today.

The Best Laid Plans

I thought I would be writing this having just returned from 11 days over Christmas in Mallorca. In fact, I had wondered if I might be able to do the occasional posting from Mallorca.

However, we did not get there. My husband was the first to succumb to 'Flu in early December. I followed but mine was the Wimp's version, 'Flu Lite, if you like. It was deeply unpleasant, but not as serious as my husband's became. He ended up with a very severe chest infection and was very sick indeed. He is still off work and quite weak, but, thankfully, on the mend. I don't ever want to have to see anyone, even Tony Blair, struggling to breathe, ever again. It was so horrible for him and a wake up call for us both that we need to get healthier and fitter.

Christmas was very different, but we did have a relaxing two weeks at home. I didn't start to feel well again until the day after Boxing day - I ended up with my own antibiotics for Tonsilitis just before Christmas. It was so quiet that I even did some housework. The non public bits of my house are still pretty much a disaster, but downstairs is mostly organised and clean. I have turned into a domestic goddess who makes home made chicken soup.

It was quite a shock to go back to work again today, given that I hadn't been there since mid December, but it worked out fine.

The best surprise was finding a Christmas pressie from the boss - actually the only one I got that I hadn't either gone out and bought myself, or knew what was in it. A voucher for a spa treatment. Nothing could have been more appropriate or welcome. Just what I need to banish the stress of the Winter to come.


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