A-Z

Aaron

Brief Outline: Aaron has mainly seen the GP because of sports injuries, most importantly problems with a fractured wrist and neck pain. He also saw an osteopath for the neck pain, and felt that it would benefit more people if osteopathy was available on the NHS.
Background: Aaron is a statistician and lives in a shared house. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.

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As a child Aaron had seizures and the GP would visit him at home. These stopped by themselves and Aaron never had them again. Later on, he had several sports injuries, most importantly a fractured wrist and neck/shoulder pain. 

When he lived at home with his parents, Aaron and his family used to see one particular GP who is now retired. He found her approachable, and appreciated that she was always prepared for consultations. She was different to some of the other GPs he saw, who he said would read his notes while he was in the room. His family doctor was on leave when Aaron’s wrist was injured while playing football, so he was seen by another GP. This doctor told Aaron that it was only a sprain and that it would heal in a couple of weeks. Aaron felt unsure about the diagnosis but trusted that the doctor could probably be right. As the pain got worse, though, he went back and saw the same doctor again. He asked for an x-ray but the doctor thought it unnecessary, which made Aaron feel that he wasn’t interested. Aaron would also have liked the doctor to talk him through the examination but, instead of providing an explanation, the GP prescribed him more painkillers. 

Shortly after these appointments, Aaron was about to start university so decided to have his wrist examined at the university surgery. He was immediately referred to hospital for an x-ray, which showed a fracture in one of the bones. By the time Aaron had his first wrist operation, which was unsuccessful, he’d had the pain for a year and it was another five months before he had his second operation. 

The whole process left Aaron very frustrated. The initial misdiagnosis caused a delay that made surgery less likely to succeed. Because it was his writing hand, it affected other areas of his life too, including playing sports and writing while he was studying. As it took him longer to write, he had to ask the GP for a letter that would allow him extra time during exams. Aaron advised other people in a similar situation to see as many GPs as they can to get different perspectives on the problem. He also recommended looking on the internet for more opinions.

Recently, Aaron had neck pain but found it difficult to get an appointment. He ended up having a telephone consultation but the doctor didn’t ask him how bad the pain was. He was advised to take painkillers and make another appointment if the pain didn’t subside in three weeks. Aaron still has the pain – he plans to have it looked at but prefers a face to face consultation this time. He finds it easier to discuss this sort of pain in person but welcomes alternative forms of consultation for other situations, including social media where people could get instant replies.

Aaron also saw an osteopath for the neck pain. This put his mind at ease because he felt like ‘something’s being done’. Although these appointments are expensive, he would rather pay than go back to the GP and be prescribed more painkillers. Aaron felt that it would benefit many more people if osteopathy was available on the NHS.
 

When Aaron’s mum started a new job, he often saw the GP on his own. He’d known her for a long time so was comfortable. He knew the receptionist too.

When Aaron’s mum started a new job, he often saw the GP on his own. He’d known her for a long time so was comfortable. He knew the receptionist too.

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Sometimes it would just be me who went in. My mum would drop me off and she’d rush off somewhere. Or yeah sometimes my mum would go in with me when it’s a bit more serious. But yeah, she [GP] usually spoke to me, which was good. Or she’d speak to my mum and explain it to me after, so.

Did you feel comfortable asking questions?

Yeah, yeah it was, I think I was quite shy when I was younger, so I probably didn’t ask that many questions. But yes she, looking back on it like, it was fine.

And you mentioned that sometimes you also went by yourself, your mum dropped you off.

Yeah.

Can you remember how old you were, you know, when you went to the doctors by yourself?

I would have been around, around 15 I would say. Yeah, once my mum had started her job that she’s in now. Yeah, about that sort of age.

And can you remember going there by yourself? Have you got any memories of that time?

Yeah, I remember, I remember I walked in and I, at the receptionist desk, I knew the woman behind the reception desk. She was actually my friend’s mum so I’d see her and then I’d say what I was there for or who I was seeing, but yeah it was all fine.

Did you feel comfortable that it was your friend’s mum or did it make it a bit more unnerving or uneasy in any way?

Yeah it was fine because I didn’t have stuff that would have made it embarrassing or anything. Mine were mainly just sport injuries so I guess, I mean I played football with her son, so most of the time she knew about them anyway before I went in. So yeah it was not that unnerving because, yeah, it was fine.

And going to see the GP on your own, can you remember how you felt or, you know, were you comfortable that you didn’t really think about it?

Yeah, I think I was comfortable because I’d seen her for so long before that, with someone else I guess, it’s just a transition and just gone by myself.
 

Aaron’s family doctor, who has now retired, always explained what medication she was prescribing, how it worked, and how often to take it.

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Aaron’s family doctor, who has now retired, always explained what medication she was prescribing, how it worked, and how often to take it.

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Was it always the same doctor that you saw?

Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty sure. Unless one maybe here and there, she might not have been well or something, but yeah I’m pretty sure it was the same one all the time.

And often you said you also went for sports injuries.

Yeah.

And can you remember any of those appointments, like what happened at the appointment or, you know, did she ever refer you to anywhere else or?

Yeah. So I had, she’d do like loads of tests on me and I would have knee problems and my dad would, as I said my dad was in before and he really had problems with his knees. So I had one referral to somebody who worked as a consultant but they told me not to worry about it, and did a couple of scans.

Was that reassuring?

Yeah, yeah, it was good. So I guess, cos then I, we had the GP but then I’d see the specialist as well so...

Thinking about this GP who has now retired, how would you describe her in terms of her being a GP, you were comfortable with her?

Really approachable. She had a good, cos since then I’ve had other GP’s and they are reading about you while you’re almost in the room, whereas she had everything ready. She was yeah really friendly and just really good at going through the whole process, explaining what you would be given and how it works and how often, rather than you having to look at what you get from the chemist.
 

The doctor didn’t seem interested in what Aaron told him. He didn’t explain anything about the tests he did and prescribed painkillers.

The doctor didn’t seem interested in what Aaron told him. He didn’t explain anything about the tests he did and prescribed painkillers.

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He said it was a sprain and the first appointment you went away thinking oh I’m not really sure about that.

Yeah, but then I trusted him because I guess it’s a GP and, yeah. But then the second time I went I had a bit more doubt. And the last time I went I was really doubtful and thought I’d just wait until I go to university and sort it with the GP there. 

And I went to a university which has the facilities, a sports uni, it’s [name of] University, so it has all the sports facilities. And they’re used to seeing people like that, so yeah I waited until I was there.

How would you compare that GP to your family doctor?

Not very good. Just not even like being personal to the patient, just not really giving an interest in the problem. And the fact that I’d gone back and said that the pain had got worse didn’t really make much difference I guess in his eyes. But, yeah, I knew that if it was my family [GP] that at least I could have got scans which is what I was after. I even said that to the person who was replacing her.

You suggested it to him?

Yeah, I suggested it but he didn’t seem very keen. I don’t know why that was, might not have been, he might have his own reasons, but yeah.

How could the appointments with him have gone better, what would you have liked in the ideal world to have happened in those appointments instead of thinking, ‘oh I’d better wait until I get to University’. If those appointments had gone better, you know, how, should they have gone really in the ideal world?

Well cos I, when I just went in, as I say, he did these tests, these pressure tests, so I didn’t know what any of them were for. So I guess learning what he’s doing and why and maybe seeing, because I know some GP practices have the posters of say your hands and they go through, ‘oh it might be this part and this bone is connected to this and that might be why’. But yeah, none of that, so he did a couple of tests, didn’t tell me why, gave me a prescription for some pain killers, and then gone, that’s it.

And did you ever at that point look for more information or talk to anybody else?

I did some research online. But yeah, as I said, I just waited then until I was at university because I knew where I was going, and I knew that they would probably have a bit more knowledge definitely than that GP.
 

Aaron and his family sometimes saw the GP at church but their health was never discussed. ‘Everything was confidential’.

Aaron and his family sometimes saw the GP at church but their health was never discussed. ‘Everything was confidential’.

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I think everything was confidential. But yeah, we lived in like a little parish area and you’d see maybe, cos we went to church when we were younger, and you’d see the GP there and maybe ‘Hi there, how are you?’ and then. But just small talk, but yeah nothing would ever be said in front of anyone, not even like family members, obviously because of confidentiality. So yeah, they were really good on that sort of stuff. And even with the receptionist being like my friend’s mum was absolutely fine, no problems at all.
 

A GP can’t tell over the phone ‘how stiff someone’s neck is’ or how much pain they’re in. In some situations face to face consultations are better.

A GP can’t tell over the phone ‘how stiff someone’s neck is’ or how much pain they’re in. In some situations face to face consultations are better.

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Recently I had a problem with my neck and I tried to get an appointment. And I couldn’t get one because the GP has, one of the GPs had left. And so I rang up, I went there in the morning, tried to get an appointment, no appointments, for the emergency appointments on the day because it was really bad. And that was it, they said ‘nothing today’. 

So I went back the next day, said the same thing, and they said ‘Oh the GP is doing, the one who is there, he’s doing telephone consultations’. So I got a telephone call and they went through everything. And you know that they don’t want to spend too long on the phone cos they’re the only GP in the practice, and they’ve probably got a big long list of names to go through. 

They only took the details of what pain I had. But I told her that I’d had the pain for about two to three weeks, and it wasn’t getting any better, it was just getting worse. And she told me to go to Boots or go to somewhere like that and get some painkillers, take the painkillers, and if it’s bad in a day’s time, to give them a call back and I’ll get an appointment. 

So it’s sort of like you have to say ‘three weeks’ or you have to say, ‘I previously rung up to your GP or another GP and I’ve been told to call back’ just to get seen by someone. Cos over the phone you can’t tell how stiff someone’s neck is until you see them. And everyone has a pain threshold as well, so I guess it’s yeah, I thought that was quite badly dealt with. But given the circumstances, I can see they can’t see everyone, but yeah.
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