Zara Aziz: In search of the NHS's lost prescriptions

'Where do all the socks go?' asked my son one dismal morning after we'd spent an inordinate amount of time pairing odd socks. In the end we went with royal blue matched with black - after all this is now fashionable as I often note when occasionally checking plantar reflexes from the bottom of the examination couch.

‘Same place as where all the missing prescriptions go I expect - the abyss,’ I replied.

I was discussing this very dilemma with a friend who suggested electronic prescribing as a very credible alternative. Like all new ideas this sounded ‘gimmicky’ until I came to test it first hand.

‘Baby’ who is normally a feisty child was under the weather with high fever and a chesty cough, that we attributed to a nasty virus. He had been ill the whole week and had a particularly bad day with temperature up to 39. I suddenly felt like the shoemaker whose children go barefoot.

I unearthed my stethoscope to listen to him - I could hear loud crackles in his right lung. I rang our GP. I must confess that it was 6.25pm on a Friday evening at this point. When at work I have often wondered why anyone rings their GP at this time for advice or an appointment. I mean seriously... 6.25pm?

30 minutes later and we were queuing at the local chemist for some antibiotics. Baby’s prescription had been sent earlier via electronic prescribing and I was feeling somewhat relieved at having averted a call to the 111 service.

‘I’m afraid the EPS spine is down. We don’t have your prescription.’ The pharmacist was apologetic to the lady ahead of me in the queue.

Surely not. But there it was - another virtual black hole where prescriptions could disappear into without a trace. I felt conflicting emotions - upset and denied my basic right to get antibiotics but also guilty that after all I had left it rather too late. In short I felt like a patient.

But then happily my faith in IT was restored as the spine was up and running again after half an hour, and our lost prescription was miraculously found.

  • Zara Aziz is a GP in Bristol

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