If you see someone tearing down those posters displayed in Outpatients, advetising
how many appointments were missed last month, it could be me.
It drives me mad to see NHS notices :LAST MONTH xxx PEOPLE MISSED THEIR APPOINTMENT
implying it is our fault we didn’t turn up.
Yet when a new IT system installed by Imperial managed to send my appointment letters all over England, so I never received them, it took real persistence to get the system sorted out.
When I tried to phone the Imperial Trust hospitals to tell them they had it wrong, and give them my correct address
- Charing Cross Hopital told me they couldn’t accept my word and I had to ask my doctor to verify my address
- Western Eye and others politely took my new address, and continued to send out letters to the wrong one
Last Autumn I finally got an apology for the appalling mess-up Imperial Health Trust made of my letters from hospital, after at least five months of mix-ups..
It took a further three months to get an apology, and six month’s wait to get back money I had spent for private appointments.
I was not alone
NHS has finally ‘fessed up – in one of the biggest losses of sensitive clinical information in the NHS’s 69-year history, more than 500,000 pieces of patient data sent between GPs and hospitals went undelivered over the five years from 2011 to 2016.
Liz McAnulty, of the Patients Association, said: “The failure of the NHS to manage essential medical correspondence effectively is scandalous, and the lack of transparency about these errors is at least as bad. Patients have become totally lost in all this: it has become a matter of contracts and administration – neither of them remotely well managed. The system clearly lost sight of the people it was supposed to serve.”
As Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote, “Nobody noticed …. 700,,000 missing letters … Not even my desk is ThAT untidy.
The mislaid documents, which range from screening results to blood tests to diagnoses, failed to reach their intended recipients because the company meant to ensure their delivery mistakenly stored them in a warehouse.
NHS England has quietly launched an inquiry to discover how many patients have been affected. So far 2,500 cases that require further investigation to discover potential for harm have been identified. The NHS is spending millions of pounds paying doctors to assess the scale of the medical impact.
Will heads roll?
In my case, Imperial had transferred all its records go an outside firm; another instance of the useless privatisation of the NHS. During the change-over, somehow my address had got corrupted, and about a year ago I began to sense that I was missing out on regular check-ups, and not receiving letters confirming a diagnosis after an Outpatient visit.
At first I started to phone to ask about when follow-up appointments would be scheduled. When I would be told a date three months hence, just thought NHS was cost-cutting and extending times between visits.
Then I had a TIA (mini-stroke) and it got serious. Having had a TIA previously, I remembered I needed physio urgently, and an appointment to discuss the tests that I had undergone. Told “you will see the doctor in ……. and being given a date three months later, I knew this was wrong and immediately booked a private appointment to discuss what I needed to do.
Luckily I was having physio for several problems, so just reminded the Physios not to forget to do such-and-such.
Then, the mystery started to unravel. One day my brother appeared with a big bundle of letters and asked if they were anything to do with me. They had my name, but an address that was a corruption of a four year old address mixed in with unknown elements BUT it did have my brother’s home postcode; I presume the new IT firm had decided to include my next-of-kin’s address – thankfully.
A clever postmaster in his village put two and two together, and one day turned up with about 20 ‘mis-routed’ letters.
Yes, they were mine, and included ‘missing’ appointment letters, letters from Consultants and – ominously – letters that began “As you did not turn up for your appointment”, saying I had been taken off the list. This meant I had to
- write to my GP to explain I had NOT deliberatedly missed my appointment, but never had their letter
- Ask GP to re-refer me to certain Consultants (not popular as a time-wasting exercise – and it’s always the patient who gets blamed)
- Contact my Consultants to apologise profusely, and explain I had never received my appointment letters
- Try to re-book appointments – and no-one at any hospital ever thinks its their fault. I felt like shouting at those appointment clerks who insisted in trying to blame me!
- Go through follow-up letters and ensure my medication and treatment was changed where necessary.
All time consuming and a bore as far as I was concerned. And even when presented with the evidence, it was over a month before letters eventually carried the correct address.
One good thing
I got my fees for private consultation refunded – although it took six months.
Jeremy Hunt in firing line
Hunt had to go before Parliament to apologise for yet another spectacular foul-up, and how I would have loved go have seen that! Apparently he had known about this problem for months, but in typical NHS Admin fashion, had left it until Patients found out, and then given us no help in sorting out the mess.
But he did manage to point out that the initial contract with the company who so spectacularly caused the foul-up had been signed in 2006 when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister and Alan Hunt Health Secretary.
Can one trust any Politician today to run even the proverbial party in a Brewery? And will anyone get the sack? I doubt it. But if you find your NHS letters have been sitting in a warehouse, or sent to the wrong address, and you are told you will have to go to the back of the queue when re-booking a missed appointment – just go private and send the NHS the bill!