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Not App-y About This Reception

, , , | Healthy | May 13, 2022

I have a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia and have been taking the same high-strength painkillers for three years now. I recently moved across the city and had to register with a new general practitioner’s surgery. They have an option where patients can request medication through the national health care app, which I do on a Wednesday a week before my prescription runs out. This painkiller has serious withdrawal effects that start eight hours after the last dose and get progressively worse in a short amount of time.

On Monday evening of the following week — five days after I requested my prescription — I check the app to see that my prescription has been rejected and a note saying to call the GP. I call on my lunch break the next day, Tuesday, thinking forty-five minutes will be plenty of time to get through to reception and sort it out. More fool me; my lunch break ends and I’m still on hold.

Thankfully, my workplace (a nursery/daycare) is lax on us using our phones while on shift so long as we’re not taking photos of children or ignoring our duties, so I opt to do the washing up after lunch with an earbud in listening to the hold music.

An hour and fifteen minutes into the call, I’ve finished washing up and there’s no cleaning to do inside, so I head to the garden with my earbud still in. It’s tricky to hold a conversation with the children and my coworkers through the repetitive music still in my ear, but I manage. If it were anything else, I’d give up and call back the next day, but I only have a day’s worth of painkillers left and really don’t want to go into withdrawal. After an hour and forty-five minutes of being told I’m “number one in the queue,” I finally get through to the receptionist.

Me: “Hi. I ordered a prescription of [painkiller] through [App] last week but it’s been rejected it and says to call the GP?”

We go through the verification process to bring up my account.

Receptionist: “It looks like we released a prescription for you on Thursday of last week. Is that what you’re calling about?”

Me: “Yes, but the app says it’s been rejected, and I only have a day’s worth of my old script left.”

Receptionist: “Oh, no. It was released on Thursday; it’s waiting for you at [Preferred Pharmacy]!”

Me: “So, I’ve been on hold for nearly two hours for nothing?”

Receptionist: “Two hours?! I’m so sorry you had to wait that long. We’ve been having problems with our system, and it only notified us you were waiting a minute before I took your call!”

Me: “All right, I understand, but I don’t get why the app said it had been rejected when the two other medications I requested at the same time were approved.”

Receptionist: “I’m so sorry. That’s a really long time to wait and I do apologise. Unfortunately, we don’t have any control over the app so I couldn’t tell you why it was marked as rejected. But your prescription is ready to be collected at the pharmacy.”

Me: “All right, thank you for confirming that.”

The receptionist gave me a code to give to the pharmacy in case they didn’t have my script on their system and we hung up. I understand it wasn’t their fault that the app was wrong or that their system has a bug, but I still spent over twelve hours worrying that I wouldn’t have my painkillers before my current packet ran out and spent over an hour only half-focused on my job for nothing.

I tried to report the issue on the app, but our government-run national healthcare service apparently doesn’t have that feature, so there’s nothing I can do. I’m grateful to have tax-funded healthcare which means I pay a little under £10 a month for medications that would cost hundreds, if not thousands, in other countries, but it’s frustrating to have this or similar issues pop up every few months on what should be a simple interaction. Yet another side effect of the budget cuts destroying what was once a well-oiled machine, I guess.

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