NHS says you have right to choose where you want to be treated
In practice, this generally means you go where you GP’s surgery has a contract
This cartoon from Matt of the Telegraph might give you pause for thought – if we all exchanged information when we get a hospital infection, and demanded to know from hospital CEOs what they were doing about it, we might get cleaner hospitals.
But, tell your GP you are unhappy with the way you were treated in hospital, and unlike the ‘old days’, today they won’t be able to do much if they have a contract – or in many instances won’t even be interested.
As far as they are concerned, you are no longer an item on their budget – it’s someone else’s problem.
But, it seems it’s a little known fact that NHS Patients have the right to decide where THEY want to be treated. With a little bit of Googling and asking around, you can get the best available treatment in your area, and can choose where to go in an NHS hospital.
Don’t be put off by a GP that talks about using the hospital they always use! You ‘use’ the system to get best treatment possible.
You need so see a Consultant, so you go to your GP to ask for a referral; they send you off to their local General hospital, which may or may not be able to provide good care.
Do your research, find out who is best at treating your condition locally, and tell your GP you want to see them.
GPs don’t like this, but you have the right. in most cases.
How do you find the best?
Simplest solution, consult a private GP and ask them. Most private GPs have the best consultants in their area on speed dial. They listen to patients and colleagues, and form their own list.
But this costs money, and if you can’t afford it to pay the private GP’s fee, you will have to do some work to get the same outcome on the NHS.
- Ask friends, particularly anyone who has had same procedure. You may have to take what you are told with the proverbial pinch of salt, but it should give you an idea who is good at treating your condition.
- Go on the website of the best private hospital in your area. Look for their list of Specialists, then check up names of their Consultants who treat your condition.
- When you have names, Google and find out in which NHS hospitals do they work (most do – they can’t afford to turn down at least one day a week for NHS).
- Phone around and ask how long is waiting time for Consultant X to see you at X NHS hospital.
- Armed with this info (name of consultant and waiting times), you can then ask your NHS GP to refer you to that specific Consultant at an NHS hospital.
- When you – finally – get an appointment, phone to check this Consultant will be working on that day; if you look carefully at your appointment letter it will just confirm your appointment for X’s Clinic. Tell the appointments staff you particularly want to see X.
- When you check in, confirm again that you want to see X only, and be prepared to wait. Hospitals don’t like patients who have done their homework, and can be spiteful. I once had to wait five hours, but I got to see the ‘great man’ on the NHS, and saved myself a fortune on private fees.
- If you can afford a preliminary visit privately, see the Consultant in their private Consulting rooms. They aren’t stupid, and know the NHS is creaking (anyone who saw the TV series ‘Hospital’ will remember what top Consultants said). At your first appointment you are honest, say you want to see them on NHS, but came privately first so you had time to ask questions. The good ones will honestly tell you they can’t help you jump the queue – but ….
And be persistent, don’t take NO for an answer and remember it is your body and your life.
However don’t confuse a good bedside manner with good care. When I was having cancer treatment I was lucky enough to have insurance. Went to my private GP to complain about the person in charge of radiotherapy, known by the nurses as Doctor 30 second, and reduced me to tears. My GP looked at me, saying “believe me, you are not the first person to say this.. BUT if it were my wife having treatment I would say stick with him because he is probably best in Britain. Once you finish your sessions, there is nothing to stop you sacking him!” So I did.
Waiting for tests
For those waiting for tests, there was a positive story recently in PULSE (the GP’s magazine), and it does seem that GPs are inclined to be more proactive now, instead of dismissing our concerns with “wait and see”.
But be prepared to phone the hospital appointments office constantly and ask if there has been a cancellation. It happens frequently.
Alternatively, there is nothing to stop you phoning around hospitals to see what are their waiting times for tests, and when you find one with shorter wait time than you have been offered, get on to your GP and say you want a referral to this hospital. They won’t want to change, but you do have the right – so USE it!
I recently saw a new Consultant to try and sort out Neuropathy, and he suggested I have an MRI – “just to rule out the possibility….”. This would never have been suggested a year ago. But it is reassuring.
- The other day a doctor was looking through my notes and pointed out that I was ‘lucky’ to be treated by some of the best Consultants in the business. It wasn’t luck – it was sheer hard work and doing my homework.
- Mind you, I like these Consultants because generally they all seem to have a sense of humour – essential when dealing with me.