How to get your health complaints taken seriously

Have you ever heard of a ‘Karen’?

It’s a derogatory term dished out to middle-class women who are excessively demanding.

The kind that become visibly enraged by poor service…

Who are relentlessly pushy in all situations…

Who demand to speak to the manager…

And whose behaviour goes way beyond what is deemed appropriate in public situations.

Some people say that the term ‘Karen’ is sexist, and smacks of women being expected to behave in a constrained way (for example, wind their necks in!)

Which could be true.

But my wife has a friend who has decided to take bold ownership of the term ‘Karen’.

“I am a self-proclaimed NHS Karen!” she declares.

By that she doesn’t mean she is aggressive or mean to staff – but that she has developed a powerful method of getting what she (and her family) needs when it comes to health care.

Here’s her reasoning….

Why we need to fight to get heard by GPs

First, as a woman, she says that her conditions are not often taken seriously by GPs.

Women are often ignored, belittled or patronised, with their health problems reduced to ‘stress’ or ‘neurosis’ instead of being investigated properly.

A good example is her own elderly mother.

For years she suffered from a trembling leg and shaky hand – but a succession of different GPs all put it down to ‘anxiety’ and prescribed her anti-depressants.

They refused to acknowledge her fears that there was a deeper underlying problem.

Then one day a specialist discovered that her spine had compacted, crushing her nerves, and she was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery WITHIN TWO DAYS!

It was too late, of course, and now her mother can barely walk – permanently damaged by an avoidable condition that had nothing to do with anxiety.

Secondly, Lara’s friend points to a problem we ALL face.

No longer do we have a consistent family doctor that knows our problems and medical history intimately.

And the GPs we DO see are under huge pressure to get us out of the office, and out of the system, as quickly as possible.

Which means that any problems don’t get investigated as thoroughly as they need to be.

For instance, a few years ago (2021), a study at the University of Manchester showed that “More than half (58%) of diagnostic errors in general practice happen during GP consultations with patients.”

A study 5 years before that by the Royal College of GPs found that “Nine out of 10 GPs worry about missing something serious during a consultation due to an increased workload.”

And another one in 2019 found that 35% of GPs admitted they misdiagnose patients because appointment times are far too short.

So it’s sad but true….

If you want to make sure you don’t get misdiagnosed, or miss out on a diagnosis entirely, you need to fight to get yourself heard – this goes for both men and women.

Which is why my friend has decided to take control….

The Awesome Power of a Health Karen

“You have to become a bit more like a Karen” she says, and forcefully use the UK medical system to get what you and your family need for your health.

Here’s what she recommends….

1. Check the Nice Guidelines

Before you go to your GP, visit

It offers ‘evidence-based recommendations for the health and social care sector’.

You can search for different conditions and diseases, and then see the guidance they’ve produced around treating and managing them.

In other words, you can see what is SUPPOSED to happen if you have a certain ailment.

They include…

  • Blood and immune system conditions
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Chronic and neuropathic pain
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes and other endocrinal, nutritional and metabolic conditions
  • Digestive tract conditions
  • Ear, nose and throat conditions
  • Eye conditions
  • Fertility, pregnancy and childbirth
  • Gynaecological conditions
  • Infections
  • Injuries, accidents and wounds
  • Kidney conditions
  • Liver conditions
  • ME/CFS
  • Mental health, behavioural and neurodevelopmental conditions
  • Multiple long-term conditions
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Oral and dental health
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Skin conditions
  • Sleep and sleep conditions
  • Urological conditions

All conditions have ‘pathways’ where a certain sequence of tests and events are designed to get the patient from worry through to actual diagnosis.

So this is where you can find that out.

2. Get Your NHS App Linked to ‘Patients Know Best’

Make sure you get the NHS app on your smartphone or tablet, as this is going to give you the most efficient way to contact your GP.

You should link this app to Patients Know Best, which you can register for here:

What’s brilliant about this is that you can access everything from appointment letters and test results to your multi-disciplinary care plans.

Basically, this gives you control and knowledge – because now you can access everything your GP can.

And you can track and monitor what is going on with your health, rather than blindly sitting there in a doctor’s surgery wondering what notes they are looking at.


3. Learn How to Speak to Your GP

Lara’s friend recommends that when you go to see a GP, armed with knowledge from NICE and ‘Patients Know Best’, you speak to them in a way they understand.

That means using specific medical terms rather than vague and emotional descriptions.

Also, she says, don’t fall foul of the British tendency to downplay your pain and discomfort, or show a stiff upper lip.

All that will do is give a GP an excuse to deprioritise you, and get you onto the simplest, quickest solution.

Instead, express your condition in clear, forceful, unambiguous terms in the strongest manner possible.

Do all these three things, and you will give yourself the best chance of being heard and taken seriously.

“Be a little bit more Karen,” my wife’s friend says, “and you’ll get the treatment you need.”

Very good advice, I think!