"Condescending consultant who villified me for wasting their time"

About: Eastern and Coastal Kent PCT / Emergency GP out of hours service Kent & Canterbury Hospital / Dermatology

(as the patient),

I found both a lump (most likely a lipoma) and also a skin tag beneath my arm. I researched on Google (thankfully) as to how life threatening this may be and how it could be removed. I know from my own general knowledge that skin tag removal can be easily done through the NHS. I was very assertive and contacted my GP for an appointment, telling them what the problem was and asking simply whether it could be removed and how long I would have to wait for removal. I was told it could be done at the clinic itself, however after the 'Choose and Book' failed to work, I became concerned that I had not been contacted on when my appointment would be. After nagging the reception staff, it turned out that for some reason the removal could not be performed at the clinic and that I was being referred to a local hospital- fine, I thought, as long as it gets done and doesn’t take forever as I was about to leave the country to reside abroad for a year.

It immediately became clear that the clinic had no intention of referring me quickly and I eventually, after months of nagging and complaining and liaising with the hospital who said all they needed was a simple fax referral- not a letter that would somehow take 3 weeks to arrive- I was given an appointment to see a consultant at the hospital.

Personally I thought it was unecessary as I knew that I had a skin tag, so surely the consultant didn’t need to tell me that, however I assumed it was general procedure and that the consultant would give me a removal appointment. How wrong could I be!

The consultant was not only extremely condescending and rude, but they villified me for wasting their time and before they'd even examined me they told me I definitely did not have a lipoma. The consultant eventually put their hands on my arms and told me that both arms were the same and there was no lump present. My faith at that point in the consultant had gone, as it was obvious enough that I had a lump bigger than a macademia nut in my arm (and my arm wasnt too wide, so it was a very evident lump).

I pushed the consultants hand towards the correct area (oh yes, they had not even been examining the correct area) and in my opinion, the consultant knew the lump was there but was reluctant to say anything. They told me that my problem was 'cosmetic' and could not be performed anywhere on the NHS - this of course was pure nonsense as it’s my understanding that skin tag removal is available everywhere on the NHS. It is a medical matter, it is not the same as cosmetic surgery where I ask to have my lips enhanced to look prettier. The consultant told me that it was not an eyesore as no one would ever see my arms lifted up - of course they would, especially if I was to wear short tops in the summer- it can’t be avoided. The consultant even told me that unless I wanted to be a glamour model and implied that I wasn’t pretty enough for this, I would not need the tag to be removed.

The problem was that, not only did the consultant not listen to me, but they also seemed to have forgotten that I am the patient, I am the customer. Imagine if I was a customer in a car sales room and said 'I want a Mercedes Benz, please' and the dealer said 'No you don’t, you don’t need one, bye'. They would be giving very poor customer service and losing money. I was basically being refused treatment by this consultant and it was terrible!

My faith in NHS diagnosis evaporated many years ago and now I only trust Google. Google contains thousands of pages on specific symptoms of diseases that in my opinion most GPs and consultants will know nothing about. And, due to limited resources and limits on time spent in appointments, I am concerned that GPs and consultants will not have time to question symptoms correctly (as in my case), so symptoms will go unheard.

I was also quite concerned for the safety of other patients, because although I mentioned having a lump (surely alarm bells would ring- is it cancerous or not) I was told straight away without asking about my symptoms that it was 'probably not cancerous' and no biopsy was mentioned. I believe if a lump is found anywhere on the body, a simple biopsy procedure or even 5 second blood test should be performed as a precaution- it should go without saying, if your car brakes begin to have problems, a garage will do an MOT and examine the brakes!

In the end, I contacted my GP again and asked where the skin tag removal could finally be done. They told me that it now COULD be done at the clinic and that this had always been the case, but, that, without my permission I had been referred to the consultant in dermatology as with regard to my lipoma, and the GP clinic had somehow assumed that the hospital dermatology department offered surgery, however a quick enquiry would have found that they didn’t!

So now, I am awaiting my simple skin tag procedure, however it is likely that without removing the lump attached to and feeding the skin tag, the skin tag will grow back. I am still concerned at the growth of rate of this lump in my arm, which has only been present since a year ago.

P.S I find the soaring rate of receptionist triage attempts incredibly concerning. I believe valuable diagnosis and treatment time is being lost and patients are being failed!

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