Don’t throw Reports in the waste-paper-bin

You know those official letters/reports sent out by the NHS every time you have an Outpatient appointment, procedure etc? Once, when these were sent doctor-to-doctor, they contained comments such as “nothing wrong with the child, it’s the mother”, etc.

Today, we can see these Reports, so the wording is more PC.  When I receive my reports I play a guessing game;  does “thank you for referring this delightful patient” actually mean “she is a horror….don’t send me anymore like this”?

Cartoon businessman hand put paper in office trash recycle bin for garbage. Bin for papers. Vector illustration in flat design on blue background - 63670791 READ THEM CAREFULLY – don’t throw them into the waste-paper-basket. They can be very useful, and one of the outcomes from the Paterson Inquiry was the recommendation that these Reports should be addressed to the Patient, and GPs be copied in.

Reports help keep tabs on your treatment and follow-ups,  and remind you when you need to return.  I have just used an old Report to prove that I WAS told I needed a follow-up – and the Call Centre girl got very friendly and admitted there was ‘fudging’ going on, and follow-ups were being delayed.  Hence you should note recommendations.  

What does the Patients’ Association say?

The Patients Association is an independent patient charity “campaigning for improvements in health andPatients Association | Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust social care for patients. Their purpose is to ensure that everybody can access and benefit from the health and care they need to live well, by ensuring that services are designed and delivered through equal partnerships with patients”. If you are a Patient, I have found their Helpline invaluable.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, says: “We believe patients partnering with the healthcare professionals that care for them leads to better outcomes for patients. An important part of a patient-doctor partnership is communication, so when your consultant writes to you, you really should read the letter. If you don’t understand something in it, then you should ask the consultant to explain it either by calling him or her, or at your next visit.”

(You can access them via their Secretary – the hospital can give you their contact if it’s not on the Report.As they often work for several different Consultants email seems to work best).

The Patients Association has recently been working with the Department of Health and Social Care on a project looking at the principles around patient safety, as part of the Government’s response to the Paterson Inquiry. A group of patients, not directly affected by Paterson’s crimes, have met to discuss how to improve patient safety and patient experience. They have recently submitted the group’s findings to the DHSC.

Action

However, now we can receive these useful Reports, why do so many just glance at them then throw them away?  When Reports can be a useful tool for further treatment?.

Today, more than ever, it is vital to take time to read what is written.  With the NHS in turmoil, YOU need to be in charge of your treatment. Doctors are genuinely overworked, and with only so many minutes in the day, it seems they often don’t have time to read Report recommendations – at least I’ve found this when I phone the surgery to ask what has become of a referral.

Take note, as they set out what the Doctor, Specialist or Consultant thinks should be the best way forward in your treatment path. More than likely they will make recommendations, and it is up to us to make sure these are followed up.

I found out the hard way;  in a report my Consultant recommended a change of pills, but weeks later the ‘old’ ones were still in my monthly prescription delivery.  Phoning the doctor, she admitted “I don’t have time to read Reports”.

This became very evident during the first Lockdown, when I couldn’t get a delivery slot at the Supermarket.  Even though I was way over the age limit, with umpteen ‘co-morbidities’, my doctor hadn’t had time to take in that I was disabled, and struggling, so hadn’t placed me on the vulnerable list that entitled me to a Supermarket slot.

Having got that sorted out, I then requested that the doctor book me a vaccination at the local high-risk centre, as advised by the Nobel Laureate whom I had consulted.  “You haven’t got any allergies…” she started to say, then went silent as my scanned reports obviously appeared up on her screen.  I had been with that practice for two years, since moving, and they had been so over-worked my notes must have been scanned in to my file, without being read.

What your Report means

When you receive your report,` it may write :

Discharge  – if this is written at the top, it means you can’t go back to that clinic without another referral from your GP.  So if you think you are going to need to return, get in now with a repeat request to your GP.

Medication – there will be a boring list of every drug/pill/tablet etc. you get on prescription.  This has to be done for every Report

Management Plan (or similar wording) This is the nitty-gritty; read this carefully, so you can check that everything you are advised to do, is carried out.  If it is recommended you go on to see someone else, phone your surgery and INSIST they refer you to the named person, not just their clinic.  If you are going privately, Google them and their contact should come up and ask for an appointment.

N.B.  As far as you are concerned, you will want to know what should happen, and this may be in one sentence stating the Consultant suggests x-y-z;  this is the important bit and if is often hidden in the last paragraph.  

Follow Up Appointments  Make a note in your diary when these are due, then phone about 6 – 8 weeks before and ask to book.  Whilst researching this article I noticed one follow-up appointment which was due 9 months after the first one;  the NHS has ‘forgotten’ to book it and it will be 14 months interval before I see the Consultant.  Far too long.

So treasure those Reports – they can tell you more than you think. 

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