NHS blames us for appointments’ debacle
If you see a notice like this on the Outpatients wall, take it with a pound of salt and cynicism.
This is all part of the NHS culture; often far from the truth. Recently I was part of an NHS committee; it was fairly high up because we were paid to attend. As I arrived, a GP was telling his colleagues how lucky he was, as the day before he had had several ‘no shows’, which meant he could get on with his paperwork.
Yet as more and more and more appointments get cancelled, we are made to feel guilty – but it’s not our fault.
In January my polio consultant gave me new instructions, and said he would see me in May to check if they work. Come May, I haven’t got an appointment, so phone – only to be told “Dr. X’s clinic is full up to July, when it closes”. And the person on the phone said there was no waiting list, or any chance of a cancellation. Full stop!
This was a wake-up call to take my own advice, so I went into overdrive
- sent email to my MP, with a copy to the hospital appointments office
- sent email to appointments office saying I was available if a cancellation came
- sent email to my doctor, as a courtesy – but said I didn’t expect him to do anything as knew he was too busy
- sent copy email to my GP, again as a courtesy – ” “
- As a member of the Patients’ Association phoned them for advice (basically same as above) Tel: 020 8423 8999
and sat back to wait.
Within 5 days I was phoned – no apology – but the voice said I had an appointment for the next Tuesday! I have no idea which message/email triggered this, but one of them worked!
What upsets me is that so many cancelled appointments are for painful conditions like hip and knee operations. However much you are in pain, that doesn’t seem to count with the NHS. You are just told to take pain killers – then blamed if you end up addicted. And you have to take time and make the effort to sort out the problem.
For the future
Things are going to get worse; my local Foundation hospital is the John Radcliffe in Oxford. The NHS Care Quality Commission has just down-graded this massive hospital complex from a ‘Good’ rating, to ‘Must Improve’. Reading their report, the Theatres need work, as does A & E and many more departments. To find the money for this is going to mean more cancelled operations and appointments, not replacing staff who leave, etc.
So if you suspect you might suffer cancellations, plan what to do NOW.
- If you have a carer, work out with them what you want them to do, and whom to contact, so they can help you.
- Your MP can be a good ally, so arrange to go and see them at their next surgery. Even if they don’t do anything, copying them in can ‘encourage’ hospital appointments offices to do something.
- Try and find out who is the head honcho in your hospital appointments office. It can help to ask to speak to them.
- If you can make friends with Outpatient Receptionists, they can also be helpful, as can Secretaries. In fact Karol Sikora, a well-known Cancer guru, advocates giving them chocolates or some small gift to
It is going to take persistence and hard work.
And don’t give up!