ON Friday, needing an appointment with a doctor which I would be content to book in advance, I left my call until after the early morning rush.

I plunged into the automated system and another highly stressful new approach from staff at the Elizabeth Courtauld Surgery in Halstead.

As always, I was immediately warned that there were no appointments that day, which, phrased a certain way with “I’m afraid” falsely added, is beginning to feel like “go away”. I said politely, another day would be fine. Next, I was informed that I would have to tell the receptionist why I wanted to see a doctor.

After holding my nerve and my ground I managed to secure an appointment with a doctor without describing sensitive medical details.

The experience played on my mind. Yes, the team need ways to simplify and streamline the appointments system, but patients generally call with no intention of being awkward in the first instance. When a person with no medical expertise wants to know what is wrong, my answer will be “I have a health issue”

because that’s all she is entitled to know.

A qualified doctor has studied for years, passed exams, possibly taken an interest in specific areas of medicine, and can absolutely prove that - while mistakes are still possible - he or she is an educated person.

Perhaps Elizabeth Courtauld admin’ staff are deeply interested in medicine and full of anecdotal awareness of some of the nasty things that can go wrong with the human body?

They are not entitled to question patients who call, in need, for an erudite, well-informed outcome.

How far do instructions to this reception team go? Do they cover questions about temperature, sickness, level of pain, responsiveness? It can never be enough and in any case, it is not their job. Consultations are held behind closed doors for valid reasons; confidentiality and respect must be maintained no matter how pressured everyone is.

Lisette Skeet

Firwoods Road, Halstead