“Time management” is a phrase that management gurus have coined a long time ago. I’ve always found the concept odd. As far as I am concerned, time is a given, and cannot be managed. The only thing that we can manage, is ourselves, and what we do with our time. The biggest challenge we face each day is fitting into 24 hours that which is essential to achieve our goal of living a happy, successful and content life.

I understand that patients also live busy and demanding lives, and expect that medical professionals should be available when they need them. However, I am always surprised at how many patients phone in for an appointment, demanding to be seen on a specific date and time.

I don’t phone a colleague to demand an appointment at a time that suits me. I respectfully request an appointment, and sometimes also wait three or four months. Obviously, things will change if it is an emergency – but then, do we create an emergency, only because we cannot manage ourselves, or is our need for an appointment truly urgent? Wikipedia defines an emergency as “a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment.” So, if your health or life is not at risk, you do not have an emergency, and would have to wait for an appointment.

I recommend a different approach: It is a good idea to have medical health checkups once a year. Make a list of all the doctors you need to see. If you are over the age of 40, relatively healthy, with no specific chronic conditions, you could have the following checkups as an example: An eye checkup, a dental checkup, a full physical with your GP or physician, and female patients should visit their gynecologist. If you have a strong family history of certain diseases, you might want to consider seeing a specialist in that area to determine your risk for developing the same disease – especially once you reach the age of 50. Make these appointments at the beginning of each year, and spread them over the course of the year – in this way also spreading the medical costs that you would incur at each of these appointments.

If you are referred to a specialist, understand that there is a limited supply of specialists, with a large demand. This means that in most cases there will be a waiting list – make the appointment immediately when you are referred, and be prepared to wait. Receptionists are trained to identify exactly which conditions qualify as emergencies, and will find you the earliest possible appointment. Especially if you are kind to them.

As a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, I spend a fair amount of time in surgery. I also do a fair number of non-surgical treatments, such as Botox, dermal fillers and threads. I am very strict about consulting patients before I perform surgery or treatments and I absolutely insist on seeing all my patients after surgery to ensure proper healing has occurred, and to discuss scar management and post-operative results.

I perform routine surgery and treatments, and am on call at two different hospitals, which means that I need to plan my days carefully to ensure that I deliver quality patient care to all my patients. To help me do this, I surround myself with excellent sisters with the necessary training, expertise and experience to attend to my patients’ immediate post-surgical wounds, and to alert me to potential problems, which I will then attend to myself. My practice managers, one at each practice, are well trained to determine the urgency of appointments, and my practice management consultant ensures that all patients are seen timeously when necessary.

My days start at 07:30 with staff meetings, ward rounds, discussing patients with my sisters, and completing urgent administrative duties. On consultation days, I start seeing patients from 09:00, and break for lunch at 13:00, which is normally spent eating while I catch up with messages, phoning patients, attending to emergencies. I try to finish consulting at 16:00, but often see patients with emergencies until 18:00 (or later if required). The time between 16:00 and 18:00 is otherwise spent on the endless amount of administrative issues that need my attention. Emergency surgery is almost always performed after 18:00 in the week, and whenever theatre is available on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

The reality is, therefore, that I might not be able to see you as you “demand” – please understand that my practice managers try their best to fit you in as my schedule allows.

We have a strict system of determining how urgent an appointment really is, and whether it is an emergency:

  • Recently operated patients with complications or concerns are always seen on the same day they phone in to the practice if possible. If not by myself, then at least by my experienced sisters, who will update me, and call me in to see the patient if the complication warrants it – even if it means an afterhours appointment.
  • Patients with skin cancers are booked for urgent consultations depending on the type of skin cancer, and almost always seen within a week of their diagnosis.
  • Cosmetic surgery is certainly not emergency surgery. Consultations for cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures should be booked at least six months before you want to undergo surgery or treatment, and the waiting list for surgery is almost always two to three months. This does not mean that cosmetic surgery patients are less important. We still try to accommodate these patients to meet their time constraints, but the process requires a little more thought and is a little more complex. Also, results are not necessarily immediate, which means you want to procedure about six months before you want to show off the result so that you are fully recovered.

My practice managers are not employed to protect me or keep patients away from me – they are employed to follow the guidelines which have been developed to ensure that we can all focus on the most important person in our practice – YOU, our patient. At times practice managers are overwhelmed by the demands patients place on them for consultations. If your circumstances are difficult to fit in with my diary, please feel free to email my practice management consultant, who will certainly look at your request, and make arrangements that would suit your diary better. You can email her on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.