Alice’s story

My current experience of accessing GPs is not a positive one. I’m transgender and am struggling to get a referral for the Leeds Clinic for hormones. My GP simply stated “We don’t do that here” without any offer of support or signposting and I just felt their attitude unhelpful. You end up just going round in circles. I spoke to my PA yesterday and she said that “they’re not trying this time” so I’ve had to go to Lancashire LGBT and they’re helping me to get an appointment with a specialist in Harrogate for an initial assessment and then he can provide me with a letter to go back to my GP with to then arrange for me to have hormone therapy.

I also struggle with my GP not explaining things clearly to me – they’ve got these words which you can’t remember and they just don’t write it down for you. I don’t really feel confident enough to ask – I had one GP who was really good and took her time but she’s on maternity leave. My PA has started attending appointments with me to be able to ask the questions I need answers to and make sure we get the information I need. I had no support for four months of the pandemic when I had to attend telephone consultations without my PA.

Things would be better for me if GPs communicated better and were more supportive – that way I would not have to keep going round in circles. I also don’t feel they deal with patients with autism very well. I think it’s a combination of lack of training and how individuals engage with that training. Training also needs to be refreshed for GP staff on a regular basis.

I think supporting people with LD and autism in GP practices is very limited, with a focus on LD nurses but they’re spread rather thinly. The appointments aren’t long enough either to discuss the issues you’re facing; I’ve hardly ever been able to book a double appointment.  I’m not always sure if the receptionists check my records when setting up the appointment. I’ve struggled to book my annual health check appointment around the availability of my PA to support me too.

Communication with patients with autism is often unclear – we need letters and appointments to be precise – if I need to be there at 1.20pm for a 1.30pm appointment please tell me that! I also find lack of communication about if they are running behind on appointments worrying and frustrating. I find the reception area in GP practices rather daunting and confusing. I don’t know where I’m meant to stand when I go in – there’s too many different queues and it really isn’t clear which one I’m meant to be in. Luckily one of the members of staff has worked with me on this because it sends my anxiety through the roof.

Links with other services can be poor too. I only had the one GP who looked into other support services to help me but even then, she hit a barrier because these were for people with both learning disabilities and autism not autism only like me. Other GPs haven’t tried.

Joe’s story

I find accessing my GP ok at the moment. Although we’ve had a couple of issues using my GP and Patient Access to order prescriptions for me and my wife. During the pandemic I’ve been able to see my GP face to face because I’m classed as vulnerable because of having had prostate cancer. He’s been really good. I had physio sessions over the telephone which, at first, I was dubious about, but it has actually worked well and I’ve improved loads. The instructions were easy to follow.

It would be good to have out of hours services in both the health centres in Darwen and Blackburn, that would take pressure off A and E and I don’t think people really know what they can use a pharmacy for – they’ve started advertising their services more but they could do more to get people using them rather than waiting for a GP appointment.

One issue I have faced during the pandemic was getting a PSA test for prostate cancer. I had my well man bloods taken but it was only when a friend asked if I’d had the PSA test that I booked another appointment to request one. The GP asked me why I wanted this done – my father died of prostate cancer and I think it should just be a matter of course for anyone who has had it in the family. Thankfully mine was picked up quickly after the test. I’ve heard from a few other men that they’ve had to ask to have it done rather than being offered it.

Andrew’s story

I went into rehab in Lancaster for 4 days earlier in the year. When I phoned the practice for an appointment and to get a prescription they said, “Aren’t you in Lancaster now?” I explained it was only temporary for 4 days but somehow, they had lost my records thinking I was transferring to a GP over there.

It took 3 weeks to sort it all out. That really shouldn’t happen.