For reasons never adequately explained, I have been sent to a different outpost of Outpatients. My original appointment was in December, but then I received a letter sending me somewhere else, under someone else, three months later. Reception is brighter than where I was last sent, and the ladies behind the counter are rather chirpier. But the remainder of the facilities look like as little money as possible has been spent on them over the past few decades, bar some fresh vandalproof chairs by the entrance. Somebody's misplaced my notes, which I put down to the folder being much thinner than everyone else's, so I have to go and wait elsewhere for a bit.
A nurse eventually calls me in for weighing, which apparently one does without taking off one's shoes. She's quick, but I work out I could lose half a stone next time purely by coming in trainers. I'm sure I'm the youngest patient here, by at least a decade, probably two. Most are sitting staring forward, or chatting to a carer or spouse - I'm the only one who appears to have brought some reading material. The staff at the clinic know this, and have covered the walls with simple messages about healthy eating and approved rates of drinking. The man sat next to me is holding a packet of mince in a Tesco carrier bag. It's lean mince, which is encouraging, but I'm uncomfortable spending so long in the presence of raw sliced meat in a place like this.
One especially grizzled gentleman is here in a wheelchair, and natters to anyone who'll listen. The nurse says she'll help him into the consulting room when the time comes, but when the time comes she's otherwise detained and he has to hobble without her. Consultants and junior doctors pop their heads out of the suite of rooms occasionally, sometimes to grab a drink, sometimes to call in a patient. But the afternoon's appointments are, apparently, running half an hour late. Those sitting around me are unhappy at the delay, especially as "it's never normally this busy". They tut quietly, and stare at the noticeboard on the wall some more. Before long I start my second flick-through of Time Out, which is brief, and I'm left wishing the content was a bit more interesting these days.
The main consultant arrives late because he's been doing proper medicine in the main hospital, and swishes into his room. I have a one thirty with him, which is a little unnerving because everyone else seems to have been allocated to a junior. Another one thirty appointment goes in half an hour late, but I'm left waiting much longer than everyone else, perhaps because the professor is sneaking down some lunch. On the wall nearby is a donations box, because this corner of the NHS relies on the kindness of its patients for certain equipment. An elderly lady approaches, slowly, and attempts to post a thickly stuffed envelope inside a slot she's too short to see. She folds, and pushes, and moves the envelope around a bit in case she's missed something, but has no success because the box has been designed for coins and single notes only. Defeated she heads to reception, a little reticently, but needs must.
At last, a full fifty-two minutes late, I'm summoned inside. Intriguingly it's not by the senior consultant but by one of his juniors, the one who's already seen his one thirty appointment. My one thirty with the professor has been cast aside to speed up the queue, or at least I assume it has, it's never stated. The junior hasn't read my notes so flicks through them from the front, gathering a handful of salient points then asking me for the rest. I tell him a fairly garbled account of my backstory, missing out many of the things I've been practising saying during the weeks leading up to the appointment. He asks if I drink moderately and I say I do, although I bet he's been trained to assume I'm lying. He asks if I exercise and I mention walking, yes, for more than a mile. Then he pops me up on the couch, and pops me down again, and looks vaguely earnest.
He enquires whether anyone has spoken to me about a particular procedure. They have actually, several times, as he'd know if he'd read past page three of my notes. He tells me I could have this procedure done or I could not have it done, which is what I knew when I arrived, and he presents no convincing arguments either way. Previously I've been advised both ways, so his vague urgings are no help whatsoever. Not to worry, I'm more than happy to stick with inaction on this front for as long as possible. I doubt I'd have got away with indecision if I'd met the main man instead, but he demoted me to the junior so he can't be too worried about my condition. And yes of course I'll book another appointment in a year's time, and then maybe we can play the consultant raffle again.