Karol Sikora’s tips on dealing with the NHS

Keep these tips handy – you may need them for next hospital visit

And become an informed consumer not a service user.

                                                                                                             Prof. Karola Sikora is a world-renowned cancer specialist

He has worked in medicine for 40 years, originally in the NHS,  then in a senior job in the World Health Organisaion  and now privately.  He is often quoted on new initiatives for cancer treatment, and is passionate about better care for patients.

Now he has written a book, “The Street-wise Patient’s Guide to Surviving Cancer” in which he warns patients that, contrary to what they think, the NHS is not there to help individuals, and they cannot simply trust their doctors and medical team to ensure that they get the best available treatment.  In other words it is up to the patient to ensure they get the best treatment possible for THEM – don’t sit back and expect the GP to do this for you.  They generally have some sort of contract with a local hospital, so don’t like adverse comments – and probably their hands are tied even if you have a complaint.

If you are a patient, you either make a fuss when things don’t go well (what you should do, according to senior Consultants).

Or take the consequences.

Karol Sikora’s advice to get the best care for you: (with some comments from me)

  1. Learn as much as possible about YOUR cancer.  He advises browsing American websites to see what they advise. Start-up list on https://aftercancers.com/2015/09/helpful-websites-for-survivors/  or see https://aftercancers.com/category/american-websites/
  2. Request copies of scans and tests.  Then you have them when the NHS IT system doesn’t work.  Bet some patients wished they had them when IT system went down! And it’s still down at certain times.
  3. Negotiate for best treatment – this might mean asking to be referred to another hospital.  It’s YOU we are talking about and ‘hospital targets’ often aren’t working for you. Your GP will want you to go to their preferred hospital, but this may not be the right one for YOU.  Stick you toes in and INSIST – you have the right. .
  4. Work out a treatment ‘diary’ – and if appointments fall behind ask your Team to sort this out.  Don’t be afraid to chase up people/depts. And keep on phoning Appointments office to see if they have a cancellation.
  5. Learn names of Receptionists and Consultant’s PA – and thank them for their help (not many do).  Sikora recommends “give them flowers”, or I found a home-made cake went down very well.  Then when things go wrong you can go direct to them and it is surprising how helpful they can be, particularly in getting you moved up to the top of the appointments list.
  6. Always see same doctor or consultant.  Talking to French doctors (their cancer care is acknowledged as best in world) they were horrified at the thought of ‘their’ patients being seen by someone else.  They say you need continuity.  When NHS Outpatient Receptionists try to shove me in to see another doctor in Clinics, I say politely that I have come to see ‘Dr. X…’ and will wait until they are free.  They soon learn I won’t be fobbed off.

Take note of comment from admired medical writer:

“As is his perfect, democratic right, the Chancellor has determined that he will balance the books and accumulate a £10bn surplus by 2020.  In consequence he is reducing borrowings, realigning taxes and cutting public expenditure.”  Roy Lilley.  
                                                                                                                                                  Begging the question, why does the Govt. need to save money on the NHS?   
Whatever the outcome of the election, whichever party gets in, and whatever their Manifestos promise for the NHS, we must realise there are going to be massive cuts in the NHS. Just make sure it isn’t your care that suffers.  And be prepared to make a fuss.  Many doctors know the NHS’s faults, and admire patients who stand up for themselves.   
 Kris Hallenga, founder of charity CoppaFeel says, “You think there is a clear road map .  No-one tells you how pro-active you have to be”.
As a noted Oncologist told me, “those who take control of their care will have a better outcome”.


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