'Hello, I am a patient of doctor N, I am in a lot of pain & I need to speak to the on-call medical doctor'
'I can't put you through to them'
'Well, I need to speak to someone please, I've been waiting for the doctor to call me for almost an hour'
'They are busy you know'
'Yes of course, I appreciate that, all I want is to know how much of my meds I can take'
'What does it say on the label?'
'It says I can have 2 x 5ml of codeine 4 times a day and 2 - 4 x 5ml of paracetamol (I wasn't going to tell her it was calpol) 4 times a day'
'Well, take that then'
'No, I have already tried that doseage and it does nothing. I have been informed that this is a small dose and I can take more, but I need to speak to a doctor first'
'Ok, I will put you through to the on-call ward sister'
'(deep breath) Ok, thank you'
'Hello, this is the on-call ward sister, what is the problem?'
'Oh hi, I am a patient of doctor N and I have been in excrutiating pain all evening, I have been waiting for the on-call medical doctor to ring me back but it's been over an hour now, my pain hasn't lessened and all I need to know is how much of my meds I can take'
'What meds do you have?'
'(deep breath) I have 15mg\5ml codeine in linctus and 250mg in 5ml paracetamol suspension (I wasn't going to tell her either)'
'And what doseage is on the label?'
'(deep breath ... pause) 'It says I can have 2 x 5ml of codeine 4 times a day & 2 - 4 x 5ml of paracetamol '
'Well, take that then'
'I have already tried that & it does nothing. I have spoken to Sister D on S ward earlier and she informed me that this is a small dose and I can take more but that I need to speak to a doctor first'
'Yes it is a small dose and very strange too, what do the tablets look like?'
'They are both liquid'
'Ah! why are you taking them like that then?'
(deep breath & ever so slightly forced politeness) 'Because I have throat cancer & find it hard to swallow'
'What is your name?'
(at this point I can hear her trying to log into her computer, but given the tone of the beep, she is having problems with her password)
'Check that you don't have caps lock on'
'Mutter ...... There is something wrong with this computer'
(getting a tad exasperated now) 'Yes I can hear that horrid machine beeping at you, check that you don't have caps lock on'
'Ah, silly computer had put it in capitals! Right can you spell your surname please Sandra?'
'Would you like my hospital number?'
'Ok it is ......'
'Ok, it says here that you were given (some drug I cannot remember the name of), why don't you try taking that?'
'That was last year, I no longer have any'
'Hmm, I think you should speak to the on-call doctor and she might be able to help, let me try to put you through'
'No, the line is busy, let me try again, ... no, it is still busy, let me take your phone number and I will get her to ring you'
'Ok, it is .....'
'Ok, I will try one more time while you are on the phone, ...... no, she is still busy, I will get her to ring you'
'Ok, thank you'
'Hello this is the on-call ward sister, I have spoken to the doctor, she knows you are waiting to speak to her but she is very busy, she will ring you later'
'Ok, did you tell her that all I need is to know what I can up the dose to?'
'She is very busy with a sick patient you know'
(deep breath - rationally I know she means a critical patient, but it does irk me that she said it in those words) 'Of course, I appreciate that, ok, thank you for your help'
'Hi yes (sorry Sandra, I just don't care any more)'
'This is Dr L, I understand that you are having problems with pain, how can I help you?'
'I have been in excruciating pain all evening, the only pain killers I have are 15mg\5ml codeine in linctus & 250mg in 5ml suspension paracetamol (well it IS paracetamol)'
'I took 2 x 5ml of codeine and 2 x 5ml of paracetamol earlier and it had no effect'
'Well no i'm sure it didn't, that is a very small dose, why did you only take that much?'
'That is pretty much what it said on the bottles'
'Oh, why have you got them in liquid form?'
'Because I have throat cancer & find it hard to swallow'
'Ok, well you can take up to 4 x 5ml of the paracetamol and up to 16 x 5ml of the codeine 4 times a day'
'Ok, thank you very, very much'
'Is that all you needed to know? don't you want to know what is causing the pain?'
'At this point I am just grateful you rang and told me what I needed to know. I have had the pain before but not for a while and I really don't care any more to be honest I just want to be able to go to sleep'
'Oh, ok then, goodnight'
'Hello surgery, how can I help?'
'Hi my name is Steph Bullock, I am one of Dr V's patients, I have cancer and I am in excruciating pain (deja vu), have I missed the opportunity to talk to Dr V?'
'Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that, Dr V does not work today and is not in tomorrow either'
'Oh, right, can I speak to one of the other doctors then?'
'No, i'm afraid they have all left the office for the day'
(stunned silence for a second) 'Oh, do you know what other options I have then?'
(Stunned silence for a couple of seconds) 'Err right, (nervous laughter ensues) erm, should I ring the emergency out of hours number on your website then?'
'Yes! that sounds like a good idea. You do sound awful and I am really sorry, if you don't have any luck you can call in the morning'
'Ok then, thanks'
'Hello, this is croydoc out of hours service, how can I help?'
'Hi, my name is Steph Bullock, I am a patient of Dr V's, I have cancer and I am in a lot of pain. The painkillers I have are codeine & paracetamol, but they are not working any more, I think I need to see a doctor so I can get some morphine'
'Ah, we don't actually have any doctors during the daytime, have you tried ringing your GP's surgery?'
(stunned silence for another second) 'Yes, but all the doctors have finished now for the day'
(stunned silence for a second) 'Really?'
'Yes, I just called them'
'And who told you that?'
'Ok, could I take your phone number please, I want to ring them & get someone to call you straight back; you sound awful'
'Yes of course it is ...., thanks'
13:10 - The lovely Dr V (who is only working reduced hours herself) calls me from her home and faxes a prescription for morphine to a local pharmacy.
13:15 - Lady M (neighbour for the last 23 years), revs up her car & dashes me to said pharmacy.