Waiting times lengthen for cancer treatment
Watching juvenile performances from our Politicians makes me long for childhood fairy tales; at least one could believe them. Today, fairy-tales woven around the pledgess of what each Party is going to do for the NHS are unbelievable. Reality is the NHS is in dire straights, and none more so than its cancer services. When it comes to treatment, and getting appointments, we are on our own. It’s time to make a fuss – it’s YOUR body and YOUR life.
We must stamp our feet and demand better care
Lying on a trolley in A & E (not my favourite occupation) reality was staring me in the face. Whilst the family hovered around, pleading with staff, I felt I was suspended in a time capsule as I waited to be admitted and get some sleep.
Finally in a proper bed, it was morning. Bright sunlight shone straight into aamy face; I asked for the curtains around my bed to be slightly drawn so I didn’t have sunshine hurting my eyes – but the Sister in charge snapped them back, saying “I need to see you”. Why, I couldn’t work out; after that she didn’t come near me although I was crying out for water – but my bell didn’t work.
Cancer guru Karol Sikore is quoted as saying the NHS is costing thousands of lives, and after recent scandals I was beginning to believe him. Sikora, a well-known cancer guru, was with the NHS for nearly 40 years. Former chief of World Health Organisation’s cancer programme, he now works in the private sector, and often has strong words to say about NHS waiting times. .
IHe’s even written a book about it, in which he advises patients on various ploys to jump up the appointments ladder. e.g cultivate doctor’s receptionists – try a box of chocolates – as a way of ensuring you aren’t ‘overlooked’ when it came to timely appointments. This follows advice I was given at the start of my treatment:, when my Oncologist told me that those that make a fuss have a better chance of recovery.
The idea of the NHS treating everyone fairly seems to have been forgotten; so what do you do if you are waiting – and waiting – for an appointment?
Has this happened to you? Felt you have been forgotten? Well, to help solve it means making an effort. Warning – It’s time consuming, tiring, and you may not have the energy.
Making an Appointment
If at first you don’t succeed, or are fobbed off with a date six months away, dip in to appropriate level below and try …
- Your GP may have given you a ‘Choose and Book’ form – the NHS way of ensuring you end up screaming at delays – and officially nothing you can do about it. Or they may have set this up wth hospital/consultant. Once you have a date, if you know it is too long to wait, try phoning the hospital appointment’s office. You are in the system, and might be able to get an earlier date. I once threatened a ‘provider’ that I couldn’t wait six months for a scan, so would be hopping on Eurostar for an away-day to have scan done in France – only to be offered a cancellation that afternoon!
- No luck? Then phone the Consultant’s Secretary. Usually they work at the hospital, if not Google them. Put yourself at their mercy, and ask their advice – say you are happy to accept a cancellation. Be nice to them, and I have been phoned back and asked “are you free…..?” and offered a date that week.
- Or phone hospital and ask for Consultant’s Clinic and speak to Nurse in charge. I have been lucky and got through to old-fashioned, properly trained Nurses from the days when the NHS really was the envy of world. They are to be treasured and can sometimes get your earlier date.
- Keep on phoning Appointments at hospital to ask if there has been a cancellation. It can work sometimes.
See – told you it was tiring. But these ploys have all worked for me., so what have you to loseif you try some?
When treatment is finished write and thank any Consultant who looked after you – if you have to go back, they and their Secretary will remember you, and you are less likely to be fobbed off in Clinic with a trainee. Incidentally, I was collared by a group of French doctors at a conference recently, wanting to know about our ‘clinic’ system; they couldn’t believe how we could see a different doctor each time. As one told me, “I want to know how my patient is progressing, and what is the end result”.
Be selfish; it’s your life you are fighting for. Demand to see your Consultant in Clinic. Don’t let Receptionists fob you off with a junior doctor (unless you don’t get on with your Consultant!). Yes, I know doctors have to learn; they can sit in on my consultation – but it’s ME and now is the time to be selfish.
Say politely that you will wait for your Consultant. Eventually Receptionists get the message (warning – I once had to wait three hours, but now in that Clinic I get to see the Consultant immediately).
NHS wasting precious funds on new ‘initiatives’
In my area I can count 10 new initiatives…….. and at the end of all the reforms and management changes, what have we got?”
In London alone there are nine NHS-funded quangos looking into ‘delivering world class cancer care’. Wasting NHS (our) money, tripping over each other, talking like mad and all they have managed to come up with is the patronising Holistic Needs Assessment – which isn’t much use if you want to know how to access suitable lymphoedema treatment, deal with fractured bones from osteoporosis or need a seven-hour heart operation to repair drug damage. All these and more can be long-term consequences of cancer treatment, yet are swept under the carpet
.⇒ When Owen Paterson MP commissioned a report into the NHS, it was pointed out that he might have links with the private sector that could compromise his judgement – but what he points out needs to be said :.http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/10/owen-paterson-its-time-for-the-government-to-face-up-to-the-grim-truth-the-nhs-simply-isnt-fit-for-purpose.html
Highlighting our poor survival rates in comparison with other countries, it makes grim reading.
- Read it, and make a fuss when an appointment gets cancelled!
- Challenge NHS chiefs about this, or Politicians, and don’t let them get away with a shrug of the shoulders.
A friend has just sold her flat, down-sized and put the cash in the bank to fund private treatment. She says with the NHl such dire straights she can no longer rely on it. Another has just come out of hospital, having “sold the family silver” to pay for her op. As she says, silver doesn’t help when you are in pain. She is now skipping around and back at work – when the NHS wouldn’t have even given her a date for the op.
Other friends say bank managers are surprisingly au fait with funding private care. Many people prefer to self-fund, (Pulse, the GP magazine, expects this sector to rise by 10 – 15% p.a.); some are furious at the way the Government slaps 10% insurance tax on top of medical health insurance premiums. Taking this up with my MP, I got back a beautifully-typed letter, spouting the party doctrine to convince me that tax was a good thing. Surprisingy, he hasn’t yet come to canvas me.
Warning – Sarah Wollaston MP, has come out recently questioning the amount of extra money supposedly being allocated to NHS. Google what she says – it makes interesting reading.
Sikora has talked about wanting more of his patients to survive. Sadly, this eminent oncologist has now gone over to the private sector. Three of the Consultants whom I went to at my local Foundation hospital have also gone ‘private’, telling me they are tired of NHS bureaucracy; I am now left with the rump – who ask ME “what would Mr. XXXX suggest?” (Not very reassuring). This means I sometimes go privately to get an accurate diagnosis and correct treatment.
The Daily Mail reported another Sikora tip: do your Research. He says this is vitally important.
⇒Look up major American hospital websites offering better info than NHS Choices,. Find some under the Contacts heading here on the right.
⇒ Badger and keep on badgering if your appointment seems to be taking a long time – another Sikora maxim. He says it is vitally important to get treatment as soon as possible. Foreign friends are appalled that we wait so long – they expect a first appointment within 48 hours or sooner, and following visits in same time frame.
P.S. Latest from King’s Fund
England has fewer GPs per 100,000 population than other UK and EU countries.
But, the good news is in 2019 a total of 3,538 GP training places were accepted, the highest in the history of the NHS. Despite this, the number of full-time equivalent GPs has decreased as there are more GPs leaving the profession or reducing their hours. The reasons cited by GPs for retiring early or reducing their working hours are broad and varied, though they often focus on their unsustainable workload and pension issues.
Increasing international recruitment has been put forward as a short-term solution, but this too presents challenges. Despite the efforts of NHS England to recruit 2,000 overseas doctors into GP practices by 2020, by September this year the international GP recruitment programme had brought in just 140 doctors.
One day the NHS might have a Secretary of State for Health who has enough guts to tell it like it is – and come clean with what the NHS can afford, or how much extra we will have to pay to have as good as good an outcome with cancer as Europeans.