My New Year Resolution is to avoid NHS red tape 


A recent Headline in the Daily Mail has inspired me to DO something for my health’s sake. It quoted GPs saying they feel “the gulf between primary and hospital care is harming patients”.

At last – someone realises what is going on. So my New Year Resolution is to come out and make a fuss to help improve my care

According to a recent survey conducted by the BMA, as long as a hospital meets its ‘targets’, and ticks all the boxes, it can be a long time before bad practice is picked up  – to the detriment of our care. You only have to think of recent hospital scandals to know we are not getting the best care.

Recently a pre-operation assessment at my local hospital scared me so much that I phoned my surgeon’s secretary and pleaded with her to transfer me over to the surgeon’s private list.

I had polio as a teenager, which means if I have a General Anaesthetic I need a half-hour appointment with the Anaesthetist to go through the check-list which drugs I can have, how much I will need, etc.   At the NHS pre-assessment appointment, the Nurse airily told me “Oh you’ll see the anaesthetist ten minutes before you go into Theatre”. And refused to make an appointment for me to discuss my needs.

That really scared me; I had heard stories from friends with polio to be frightened enough to pay for proper medical care, rather than rely on a hurried assessment..  So I went to another hospital as a private patient, had a proper consultation about what anaesthetics I would need and sailed through the operation.

author photoSo when I open my Daily Mail and see Dr. Martin Scurr commenting that in his view, Red tape impedes our patient care”, I totally agree.  He was commenting on how things have changed, and not for the better, saying “now, GPs mostly have no idea who will see their patient after a referral.”

Contrast that with the care taken if you consult a GP privately, and are told you will need to see a Consultant.  Your private GP will refer you to someone they know who specialises in your problem, and has a known record of good results from other patients, etc..

Ask an NHS GP for a referral, and your name goes in the pot – with no guarantee that your needs will be matched to someone who has had experience in dealing with these.


What should happen

It’s up to us.  when the NHS is designed as a ‘one size fits all’ module, we can’t expect individual attention.  ‘”We need a radical rethink”., says Chis Lewis, of the cancer charity SimPal, “We must all work smarter. Unfortunately working hard doesn’t mean we are working effectively. I cannot accept that this sad situation is our lot. We can, and should be doing more. Politicians may have left us on the back burner, but we must improve that situation“.

As Chris says, “In the meantime, if you want the safety umbrella of the care you would receive if you went privately, it’s up to us to ensure we get this.


What we can do

So you need a referral.  You go to your GP, and normally they will refer you to an NHS system suh as Choose and Book.  They send you a form telling you where you can have the procedure done, and generally details of how long you will have to wait at any centre. ..

First thing – don’t automatically choose the shortest wait.  This could well be because those in the know realise this NHS centre doesn’t handle the problem well.  You go in on a production line, and recovery is ‘one size fits all’

You need a centre that tailors recovery to individual needs.  Ask around:  e.g. your Physio, Friends, someone who has had the procedure done, your Chemist etc. for recommendations.

Go on Google – you will find hospitals have CVs of surgeons and doctors working there,  you can look them up, and take particular note of any who have researched your particular problem.  Most will have a Secretary;  phoning them and asking if Mr. X is used to xxxx problem can provide illuminating information.

Once you have done this for the first time, you soon become an old hand.  I have formed many lasting connections with some wonderful doctors, and they seem to appreciate that you are interested in the hard work they have undertaken to become experts at their job.


Outpatient follow-up

A group of French doctors collared me at an international cancer conference, and demanded to know ~”what is zis Clinique system?”  They were referring to the way the NHS handles Outpatient appointments.  They couldn’t understand why any doctor would let someone else do a follow-up assessment – surely doctors wanted to know how their patient fared?

I tried to explain that this is a cost-cutting exercise – but gave up.  The French doctors are completely right, and now – I tell Outpatient reception I ONLY want to see doctor X  – and refuse to see anyone else.  One receptionist made me sit in Reception from 2pm until 5.25 – but now when  I go in she knows that I won’t budge until I see ‘my doctor’ – and I am passed straight through.



During the strikes, mention was made that these were to highlight poor care patients are receiving.  Well, by taking control of whom we see for an operation or other medical procedure, we can ensure we get the best care, and scandals such as those highlighted in the Francis, Ockenden, Bristol, Stafford and innumerable other reports are consigned to history – and we get the right person to administer the correct treatment and well-planned rehabilitation to help us recover.