My previous doctor Karen Kancock had left the practice just after last Christmas. I discovered that with a shock in late January. I had liked her very much indeed. She had taken good care of me, and had coped wonderfully well with the run-up to my surgery and the aftercare.
The Mid-Sussex NHS practice I go to gives me a choice of several doctors (and nurses) at three locations: Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks and Ditchling, which are all villages strung out in an east-west line along the north side of the South Downs. The system is that any patient can book an appointment to see any doctor or nurse, if they are available on the day at the time you want. You can do this online - highly convenient! I've tended to have one doctor in particular, whom I get to know well. But if she's on holiday, I've been happy to see someone else, if necessary a male doctor; and actually two of those male doctors have been very good with me.
But naturally, with Karen Hancock gone, I wanted another lady doctor for my regular choice.
So hello Dr Candida Lewis! I'd consulted her once before, just after returning home after last year's op, and she was very nice. But even so I was a bit nervous about seeing her again, and immediately plunging into a complicated request for tests that Dr Richard Curtis wanted, and requesting a six-months supply of medication to boot.
You see, I'd wobbled a bit when I saw a post by Jane Fae about some Area Health Authorities putting hormones onto a 'red list' of drugs that ordinary GPs couldn't prescribe. Had Mid-Sussex gone down that route? And if so, what was I to do? Because I didn't want to be trekking all the way up to London every month, to see Dr Curtis for a private prescription. It would be a costly palaver I'd do much to avoid. Calmer reflection suggested that an email to Liz Hills at the Brighton Nuffield Hospital might secure me a more local source, albeit on a private basis. And further pondering gave me a question to put to Dr Lewis: the 'red listing' would affect ordinary women on HRT, as well as people like me. What arrangements applied to them? After all, I was now (post-op) in exactly the same boat as any post-menopausal woman needing hormone treatment to maintain good health and appearance. Surely there was a dispensation for local GPs to prescribe HRT to such older women? Or at least an arrangement with the local NHS hospital, which in my case would be the Princess Royal Hospital at Haywards Heath - fifteen minutes' drive away, but still much easier to get to than London.
I needn't have been worried. Dr Lewis prescribed another batch of my Estradot patches without the slightest hesitation. Phew! And she authorised all the tests too. What a lovely lady. I relaxed. No wonder my blood pressure was a pretty reasonable 110/70. Not bad for a chubby old girl who likes her nosh and doesn't take a great deal of exercise!
It does make you think hard though, about the wisdom of living elsewhere. Sadly, for older people, the Good Life eventually comes down to having the right shops and healthcare services nearby. And the rest also, if possible.
Where I presently am, I have a doctor, dentist, supermarket, post office and mainline railway station all within walking distance. Garage, hairdresser, optician and a major shopping centre are just a short drive away. Gatwick Airport is an easy train ride. Scenically speaking, Sussex is attractive, and if it doesn't rival Devon or Cornwall for beauty and grandeur, at least the entire coast is very handy, and Sussex does enjoy a lot of fine weather. I get around enough to make some realistic comparisons between areas. I've yet to be fatally seduced by anywhere else.
I still come back to how it might be when I'm 80 and not so inclined to drive a long way to shop at Waitrose, or visit the surgery. And how long it might take to get an ambulance out to me. I rather think that the romantic West Country cottage in Poldark or Tarka country should remain a nice dream only.