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Monday, 21 January 2013

Three hours delay.

What a morning we had at our local Spanish health centre in Orihuela Costa.

It was necessary for my wife to have an appointment with our doctor today. Natalie has been unwell for the last week. Using the health system online booking service we managed to arrange a consultation for 11:15 a.m. Although we knew that she probably wouldn't been seen until after the appointed time we were seated in the doctors waiting room at 11:05 a.m.

With the large number of other patients waiting we suspected we were in for a bit of a wait – were we!

It was not until 2:20 p.m. - over three hours later – that we were to be seated in front of the doctor. Yes I have written that correctly: we had to wait for over three hours to be face to face with the doctor. We couldn't abandon Natalie's allotted slot and make another appointment for later in the week as she needed to get some medication without any further delay to relieve her symptoms.

It was not the doctor's fault for the delay but it was that of the system. Three separate appointments are made for the same time slot. There was a continuous flow of patients in and out of the consulting room during the whole of the time we were there.

As the morning progressed and the period of delay between the times of the patients booked appointments and actual consultations increased peoples' level of frustration of waiting increased. Several people completed official health system complaint forms. There was a degree of comradery developing amongst the patients, from a variety of countries, in helping others in completing the forms about the inadequate appointments system.

After just ten minutes with the doctor we left her room, with the necessary prescriptions for the important medication, with a great feeling of relief for ourselves and sorrow for those still enduring the long wait.

It is totally unacceptable to have to endure a three hour delay for a confirmed appointment because of a policy of allocating three patients to the same time slot. It would seem that there is an inadequate number of doctors due to insufficient funding of the health system within the Valencia region of Spain.


  1. This is an opposite experience. I made an appointment online, and selected the day and most convenient tome for myself on the same day. I decided to choose 4.15pm because the clinic is always quieter in the afternoon. The appointments are spaced out every 10 minutes with my doctor and not three each time. The doctor called me at 4.16 and dealt with my problem. As a bonus he made an appointment to see a consultant at the hospital because of a dodgy spot on my 6.15 on the same day.
    This consultation was even earlier at 6pm. Skin cancer was diagnosed and I was then given an appointment for surgery 2 weeks later which this time was 30 minutes earlier. Made another appointment with the doctor for 7 days later to get biopsy result and selected 5.15 again seen on time with result clear. So can only say from my experience the Spanish Health Service is very efficient.

    1. Hi Graham,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      Like you we normally look for an appointment in the afternoon, usually between 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. for exactly the reason you do as well. Our experience has shown that even at that time the system allows for multiple appointments in the same time slot. Often we experience delays of 30 to 45 minutes, but never three hours. Unfortunately there was not an afternoon appointment available with our doctor until later in the week so we had to accept the morning consultation. We to have found that once we get to speak to our doctor she looks after us very well and like your doctor arranges follow up consultations and tests efficiently. The problem seems to be the policy of multiple bookings in the same time slot; presumably to allow for cancellations or patients just not bothering to turn-up. But when everybody does turn-up the system collapses and patients suffer the long wait.
      It was interesting to note that the Spanish patients were the most vociferous in complaining and the first to reach for the complaint form. Several expat patients expressed the view that as they are not Spanish they can't really complain so must just accept the system.

    2. I do wonder then whether doctors operate different appointment systems. Mine used to have three at the same time but now its one every ten minutes which is much better


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