A Letter to my Doctor Regarding the Contraceptive Pill

If you follow me on twitter it’s possible you have witnessed part of my quest to get a repeat prescription for the contraceptive pill. Below is a copy of the letter I am now sending them.

Dear Sir or Madam

When my supply of the contraceptive pill came to an end recently, I went to your website as I had been instructed to do previously, and filled in the prescription request questionnaire. I waited the appropriate amount of time and then phoned the surgery to check that the prescription was ready to be collected. The receptionist informed me that it was, but that the doctor had mistakenly prescribed me one month’s worth – not actually that useful for a long term medication. She told me that if I came into the surgery and had my weight and blood pressure tested, the doctor would be able to extend this to the more usual six months, and that this could be done straight away.

I attended the surgery, explained to the receptionist that I need to be weighed and have my blood pressure taken, and that the prescription needed to be updated. She looked at me rather like I had just asked for a deep fried weasel in a bun, but I forged ahead, weighing myself and presenting her with the read-out. When it was apparent that she wasn’t especially interested in this information, I explained that I had been told I needed to do this to extend my prescription. She immediately told me that this wasn’t possible – that I would have to wait until the single month’s worth I had ran out, and then go through the same process again; filling in the questionnaire, requesting the prescription. I explained, again, that I had been given these exact instructions by the receptionist over the phone, and that I really didn’t want to have to go through this whole procedure again in a month’s time. It is, after all, just the contraceptive pill – the same one I have been taking for years with no problems. I have no current health problems, in fact I have lost weight over the last two years, I don’t smoke. And so on.

Some background. This isn’t the first time I have had difficulty getting a repeat prescription for the pill. Previously, I have requested it, had a confirmation email, only to turn up to find it hadn’t been done. Another time, I turned up to be told the doctor had refused my medication request (a time sensitive medication, let me remind you) because of my history of blood clots. I have never had blood clots. When I pointed this out, the people on reception looked confused and then told me it was a “training issue”. Blood clots were not mentioned again.

On this most recent occasion, I argued with the receptionist for some time and it was finally agreed that the doctor would extend my prescription and have it sent electronically to a chemist where I could pick it up. I wasn’t especially happy about this, but went on my way, waited three days and contacted the chemist. They didn’t have it.

At this point I decided to take a break from wrestling with the apparently endless task of getting the contraceptive pill, and waited until I had a week left on my prescription. Again, I filled out the questionnaire, requesting that the prescription be sent immediately to the chemist. I received a prompt reply (hooray for that) telling me it had already been sent, weeks ago, to my selected chemist.

I checked. They do now have it. The prescription is for 3 months. In 3 months’ time, I will have to jump through all these exciting hoops again.

My biggest problem with this was the complete unwillingness to help me. It was obvious the original prescription was a mistake – the receptionist told me as much over the phone – but there was no interest in amending this for me, to the extent that I was treated as though I was being unreasonable to even ask for such a thing.

(I went and picked up the one month’s worth originally prescribed, by the way, and suffered through the extreme awkwardness of watching the pharmacist peer in confusion at the prescription, and then have to make a special box of 1 month’s worth of the pill just for me, because, guess what? Each packet has three lots of pills in it. Why is that? Because one month’s worth is wildly pointless. She obviously thought it was stupid, and that’s because it is.)

I am a 34 year old woman who does not smoke, who has no major health problems, who has been taking the pill regularly for a long time, and yet it now appears to be next to impossible to get a reasonable prescription for it. I work two jobs, and as lovely as the [REDACTED] Health Centre is, I don’t especially want to make monthly visits to it, or have seemingly endless arguments with the receptionist who clearly thinks I am making things up. I should also be clear – back when you changed over to this system I asked more than once to do the usual pill check with the nurse, so that I could do the weight/blood pressure tests in person, but I was assured that I didn’t need to do this. So why is it so difficult? I am requesting a simple, common medication that has been available to women for decades, but I am not only made to jump through hoops to get it, but made to feel unreasonable for asking that things I am told over the phone turn out to be true. Also, for what it’s worth, having the weight and blood pressure machine in reception where everyone in the waiting area can watch you take your shoes off is both bizarre and humiliating, but then it seems you don’t care particularly about inconveniencing or humiliating your patients. If this was a medication required by men, I do wonder if it would be quite so difficult to get hold of. Probably not. You’d probably get packs given away free with your deodorant.

No one wants to write a complaint letter to their doctor’s surgery. But since I know that in three months’ time I get to look forward to more cock ups/being told nonsense over the phone/being told I have blood clots/whatever new oddities have been dreamed up, I don’t think I can continue to simply ignore this staggering pain in the arse.

4 thoughts on “A Letter to my Doctor Regarding the Contraceptive Pill

  1. I had such a bad experience last time I tried to get a repeat prescription of my pill from my GP. The receptionist I spoke to was on a complete power trip and sounded very judgemental on the phone, and after much back and forth she finally confirmed that the doctor would write me a prescription but I had to come in to be weighed etc next time (I was away from home at the time so couldn’t go in), anyway, the long and short of it is that I should have been able to collect it but I started to get all these automated messages to my phone about a doctors appointment I hadn’t booked.

    In the end I went to my local family planning clinic who were fantastic.

    I was still really rattled by this experience with the receptionist that I ended up emailing the practice manager to air my concerns – every time I’ve had to deal with her it is unpleasant, other than that my GP is fantastic. The Practice Manager was so apologetic and explained the messages I had received we an error, and that an emergency prescription had been made for me and offered to post it to my home address as I wasn’t best pleased.

    I don’t go to my GP for my pill any more as a result because it was a palaver.

    Good for you for complaining! Rightly so!

    • That is so crap! It really should be the most straight forward thing – I suspect I will end up at the family planning clinic too, as I don’t much fancy going through the whole mess again. :s

  2. UGH this is terrible. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. In this day and age, a woman shouldn’t have to!

    I despise the idea that they have weights and blood pressure machines in a RECEPTION ROOM. And insult to injury, they expect you to do these hoop jumps often. For a dang pill. That should be easy to get! This kind of thing might be expected in a place like Texas and their Planned Parenthood clinics (I’ve jumped through those exact hoops many a year ago). BUT I would not expect something like this across the pond where your healthcare tends to make loads more sense than ours.

    I hope your letter gets their attention and you get the care you need and deserve!

    • Thank you lovely! Mostly our NHS is wonderful (every time I’ve been to Kings College Hospital, for example, they’ve been excellent) but the bureaucracy of this particular place just seems to be a bloody nightmare. I am beyond sick of it.

      And yeah the weighing machine in the reception area is bloody ridiculous.

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