Given the growth in student numbers at the University of Exeter, it was perhaps inevitable that we would end up waiting a bit longer for more than just our take-away coffee. If you want an appointment at the on-campus Student Health Centre, you can now expect to wait an average of a week, which certainly represents a slow-down in the practice’s patient turn around. Tucked away in an old building near Reed Hall, the GP surgery is undoubtedly small and not always as well provided with doctors and nurses as one might like.
However, when compared with many other practices up and down the country, the Student Health Centre is undoubtedly above-par. I can say this as someone who has had to visit slightly more often than I would like during my University career, due mainly to ongoing mental health issues. Even if we measure performance on waiting time alone, Exeter students are being provided with frankly excellent service when compared to patients at other practices. A survey conducted early last year suggested that at around a quarter of surgeries in the UK have waiting times of up to a fortnight, and many medical professionals fear that the situation is only going to get worse as the population increases and NHS budgets get tighter. It would seem that increased waiting times to see a GP on campus reflect a wider trend, one which cannot necessarily be tackled by the University.
Personally though, I don’t believe that waiting time is the best way to measure a GP practice’s quality. When compared to the surgery nearest to my parents’ home, the Student Health Centre is a paradise of good service provided by kind, efficient staff. The ladies on reception are always friendly and never make you feel like a nuisance for ringing up or popping in to ask a question. This is not the experience of patients all over the country by any means. This summer, for example, my mum and I were spoken to like complete idiots for visiting a minor injuries clinic because I had an infected insect bite.
The most important thing about the Student Health Centre though, is of course its doctors and nurses. We may have to wait a bit longer to see them than we have in the past, but based on my experience, the service they provide is worth the wait. All the medical staff I have interacted with have been friendly, sympathetic but not patronising, and, most importantly, provided me with solutions to my problems. In the context of an increasingly stretched National Health Service, we can’t really ask much more of our GPs. However, if we want to keep waiting times at our Health Centre under control, we need to take some responsibility ourselves. The NHS is not there to sympathise with your every sniffle, nor is it there to undo damage inflicted on our bodies by unhealthy lifestyles. We should show our appreciation for the great service we get at the Student Health Centre by not giving it too much work to handle.