The Late Doctor

People forget that I’m a patient too when I see the doctor.


I have also grown frustrated and irritable in the waiting room whilst the GP or specialist runs 15, 30 or even 40 minutes late.


I pride myself on running within 5 to 10 minutes of appointment times – BUT there are days when it blows out, when I see the list of 6 people waiting to see me and I am running half an hour late at the very least.  It makes me incredibly stressed and anxious BUT let me give you some insight into why I might be running late:


  1. A patient will walk into my room and tell me that they are ready to kill themselves- that today is the day they are going to do it and they just booked in to say “thanks and goodbye.”My body stiffens, my mind goes into overdrive and I know my priority for the next hour is getting this person the emergency psychiatric help they need and in that moment that one life is my priority – I’m sorry but the waiting room just doesn’t factor in.
  2. An emergency walks through the door – a man or woman comes in clutching their chest and their heart tracing shows they are having a massive heart attack. A child has critical asthma and is on the brink of going into a respiratory arrest. Or a man has cut his hand at work and there’s blood, tendons and muscles hanging into a towel carried by his mate. In every case, a doctor is needed to manage the emergency despite how booked up we are with appointments. In that moment I immediately accept that I will run an hour late (and let reception know to warn my patients) but my duty is to the person who is on death’s door and so again, I’m late.
  3. The 15 people before you have booked a single appointment – for 15 mins – when in fact they had 3 issues to discuss which no thorough GP can deal with in 15 minutes. So despite my best efforts in trying to train my patients to book appropriately sometimes their expectations in what I can do in 15 minutes is unreasonable.
  4. Phone calls – I have other doctors, emergency rooms, patient’s relatives and patient’s themselves constantly calling. So sometimes –we have to take a phone call between appointments – a relative concerned their partner will commit suicide or a patient concerned they can’t breathe – that’s a phone call you cannot ignore.


I must say – the majority of people are super understanding when I explain the reason for running late, but sometimes, people have too much pent up anger from their time in the waiting room and they let me know exactly how they are feeling- which is fine. But remember I’ve been there too and I understand.


When I feel my frustration building in the waiting room as a patient I try to remind myself that there MUST be something else going on for the doctor to be running THAT late! And now you know the types of things happening behind your doctor’s closed door perhaps your next wait won’t seem as bad either!