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to expect my doctor to be able to speak and understand English to a reasonable level?

(42 Posts)
feelingvfedup Tue 30-Dec-08 17:06:48

Have had quite a few health issues after giving birth, lots of infections, problems with c-section wound not healing to name but a few. Have always been very reluctant to go to the doctors and would rather suffer for a few weeks and hope things improve rather than pay a visit to GP.

However, since giving birth and being in quite a bit of pain have had no choice but to pluck up courage and go and see a GP. First GP I saw spoke very poor English and seemed to have no idea what I was talking about when I plucked up courage to mention urine infections after giving birth. Left doctor's feeling upset and worried that the prescription he gave me was actually the right drugs. A couple of weeks later, still with raging infection, plucked up courage to see a different GP. Again, their English was quite poor and they didn't seem to understand what I was saying. Ended up again, leaving the surgery in tears.

Well, yesterday I had to go again with another fanjo problem. I've been putting off going for a while precisely because I was worried about the language problems, but was optimistic that maybe I'd been unlucky and this time would get someone who could actually understand what I was saying. However, yet again it turned into a nightmare as soon as I walked into the doctors room. Explained to her in detail the problem, she looked confused. Eventually she said she'd have to examine me I said fine. She then said she'd need a chaperone for me while she examined me. I explained, that this wasn't necessary, I was happy for her to examine me and in the past I'd only even had a chaperone if being examined by a male doctor. She didn't seem to understand. What followed was a farce. She left the door to her office open so everyone sitting in reception could see me sitting there blush while she tried to find a nurse. When it turned out there was no nurse, she dragged a woman off reception to sit in... After examining me she said she would refer me but didn't know what sort of doctor to refer me to. I said maybe a gynae? She looked confused, consulted a book and said to go away and she would get in touch with me. I mentioned about the choose and book service which I'd heard was used in the surgery so that I could try and arrange an appointment while I was there as I'm really worried about fanjo etc. She didn't understand what I was saying, repeated this several times butby this time I'd lost the will to carry on. Left doctor's again feeling mortified. I am so sick of not being able to see a doctor who speaks good English. I don't care if I'm treated by a martian or an alien from outer space the only thing I do care about is being able to be understood when I'm talking about potentially embarrassing and delicate health issues. I think I will have to change doctor's surgerys because the stress of going to the doctors is becoming a nightmare. I'm debating whether to write to practice manager and complain about the lack of English all their doctors have. Surely, it should be a basic skill for all doctors, a good command of English?

lisasimpson Tue 30-Dec-08 17:12:15

not unreasonable at all - sounds like a bloody nightmare!

dilemma456 Tue 30-Dec-08 17:13:58

Message withdrawn

CrushWithEyeliner Tue 30-Dec-08 17:14:13

That sounds absolutely awful YANB at all U. Are you going to complain?

Ineedmorechocolatenow Tue 30-Dec-08 17:14:55

Definitely complain to the practice manager and request a doctor that you know speaks English. It's outrageous! Poor old you. I also hate going to the docs as I always feel like I'm wasting their time (even tho I'm not).

I hope you get to see someone soon. If there's no joy with the practice manager, change surgeries x

AliceTheCamelHasGotTheHump Tue 30-Dec-08 17:16:39

Were the doctors you saw locums? Are there other dctors at the practice you've not yet seen? I think you should take it up with the practice manager.

feelingvfedup Tue 30-Dec-08 17:17:35

Am just worried that if I complain they will say I am being racist? There used to be a couple of GPs who were native English speakers but one retired and one left. Now all of the 5 doctors practising in the surgery have English as a second language.

justunaccomplishedsanta Tue 30-Dec-08 17:18:10

You poor thing. (((((hugs))))) Could you try going to the walk in centre? They may have better English speaking doctors there.

CrushWithEyeliner Tue 30-Dec-08 17:18:35

Well it is not really a race issue but a language one from what you say

tiredsville Tue 30-Dec-08 17:19:13

But were you going in there saying 'Fanjo?' Maybe this word she is unfamiliar with!Seriously, if you are not exaggerating then this language barrier problem unexceptable. It is not unusual for doctors to drag other members of staff in when doing examinations by the way.

feelingvfedup Tue 30-Dec-08 17:20:55

I said "vagina", I only use "fanjo" on MN!

lottiejenkins Tue 30-Dec-08 17:23:04

I feel very sorry for you!!sad I have an A1 GP who i totally adore.......he's so so brilliant with me and my ds! I feel like i could ask him for the moon and he would get it! Your story make me appreciate him even more!!

MoreSpamThanGlam Tue 30-Dec-08 17:24:09

YANBU - Its a sign of the times unfortunately that you feel like you may be accused of being racist. Its really sad.

thirdname Tue 30-Dec-08 17:24:29

I know lots of doctors with English as second/third language but whose English is better then some doctors with English as first language.
One silly situation is that any doctor from the EC can freely work in the UK, while docotrs from outside the UK have to sit an English language test. They are often the ones that do their medical school degree in English!

BoffinMum Tue 30-Dec-08 17:25:59

YANBU at all. I would escalate and even consider making a formal complaint at a higher level, and demanding a native speaker for your next appointment (possibly even at another surgery). These muppets would fail the Royal College of General Practitioners final examination, I can tell you that for a fact (because I am involved with the examinations).

It is not at all racist to be able to expect to be able communicate with a public sector medical professional in the national language.

That thing with the woman and the chaperone is a total joke. She is totally out of step with British cultural mores on so many levels and this behaviour with the associated bringing in of random laypeople would have been frowned upon in the RCGP examinations as well.

Heated Tue 30-Dec-08 17:27:06

There are 2 issues:

1) You need to get your medical problems seen to and promptly. Is there a drop-in/out of hours centre you could go to?

2) Change gps.

Tee2072 Tue 30-Dec-08 17:27:15

Absolutely complain to the practice manager. And so what if they call you racist? Its not the end of the world. Not getting the medical help you need could be.

BoffinMum Tue 30-Dec-08 17:28:06

Repeat, this is not racist. They are crap and would fail their exams if they behaved like this.

solidgoldstuffingballs Tue 30-Dec-08 17:31:57

Yup, complain. You did not make any mention of race in your OP: for all I know the GPs in question could have been French, German, Polish, Swiss... not being able to speak adequate English is a serious problem for a healthcare professional and should be complained about.

BoffinMum Tue 30-Dec-08 17:34:47

PS If you change surgeries have you considered visiting a few local ones to compare their standards? They do vary an awful lot.

AuntieMaggie Tue 30-Dec-08 17:35:07

I would do as someone else has said - complain and/or change GPs.

When you next make an appointment could you ask the receptionist if any of the others speak better english?

Agree that it could be dangerous for them not to understand you - especially if you have an allergies etc.

stitch Tue 30-Dec-08 17:35:12

part of a doctors brief is to ensure they can commmunicate with their patients. that doesnt mean they have to speak perfect english, but they do have to be able to interact. in the op's case, there is no successful communication, and i think she would be well within her rights to change surgeries.
i was once treated by a nurse whose english accent was terrible, and almost completely incomprehensible. but she not only knew her stuff, shestillmanaged to communicate with me. and i would classify her as one of the best health professionals i was involved with when ds had bronchiolitis

AuntieMaggie Tue 30-Dec-08 17:39:13

More I think about it the more dangerous I think it is that you have seen 3 different doctors at the same gp surgery and you had language issues.

Would it be OTT to complain higher than just the practice manager? Who regulates these things?

BoffinMum Tue 30-Dec-08 17:39:36

This is absolutely the point, stitch. To pass, they have to do a communication exam which involves taking a history thoroughly and sensitively, and then forming a diagnosis and coming up with a treatment plan, usually in circumstances where there are conflicting and relatively complex problems. I think we are all agreed that these guys have not demonstrated this set of skills.

ScottishMummy Tue 30-Dec-08 17:40:03

GMC requirement is competency in written,and spoken english tested by Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) for internatinal candidates or International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

the English language requirements for registration are set out by GMC

so yes do complain,it is anxiety provoking enough to see gp without leaving feeling misunderstood

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