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NHS patients wait too long for appointments-Cancer Survivorship

We should all learn to make a fuss

If you hCancer guru Karol Sikore is quoted as saying NHS costing thousands of lives                                                                                                       Karol Sikora is a well-known cancer guru.  A specialist with the NHS for nearly 40 years, former chief of World Health Organisation cancer programme, he now works in the private sector.  He often has strong words to say about NHS waiting times.

advising patients to cultivate doctor’s receptionists – even to the extent of giving them boxes of chocolates – as a way of ensuring they weren’t ‘overlooked’ when it came to timely appointments.  This follows advice I was given at start of my treatment:  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, it won’t do any harm to phone back and see what’s happened.

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 …

  1.  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 ascan, so was hopping on Eurostar for an away-day to have scan done in France – only to be offered a cancellation that afternoon!
  2. 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.
  3. 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 envy of world.  They are to be treasured and can sometimes get your earlier date.
  4. Keep on phoning Appointments at hospital to ask if there has been a cancellation.  It can work sometimes.

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 it worked, and 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 a dragon of a Receptionist fob you off with a junior doctor (unless you don’t get on with your Consultant!).  Yes, I know they have to learn; they can sit in on my consultation – but it’s ME and I am the only one who looks after me.

Say politely that you will wait for Mr. XXXX.  Eventually Receptionists get the message (warning – I once had to wait three hours, but now I always get to see Consultant).  If you turn up to find your appointment has been cancelled, demand an early re-booking.  If no luck, try phoning frequently to see if there has been a cancellation;  it happens more often than you think.

NHS wasting precious funds

Sikora told The Telegraph, “in my area I can count 10 different initiatives……..  and at the end of all the reforms and management changes, where have we got to?”

He is so right.  In London alone there are nine NHS-funded quangos looking into ‘delivering world class cancer care’. Wasting our (NHS) 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, or suffering fractured bones from osteoporosis – or down for a seven-hour heart operation to repair damage.  All these and more can be long-term consequences of cancer treatment, yet are swept under carpet

. Owen Paterson MP recently commissioned a report into the NHS.  Now, it has been pointed out that he might have links with the private sector that could compromise his judgement – but having read a huge amount of background into our health service in the past few years, what is pointed out needs to be said.


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!
  • Challenging NHS chiefs about this, and don’t let them get away with a shrug of the shoulders.

Private care

A friend has just sold her flat, down-sized and put the cash in the bank to fund private treatment.  She says her local NHS Foundation hospital is in dire straights and she can no longer rely on it. Another has just come out of hospital, having “sold the family silver” to pay for her hip 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, all I got back was a beautifully-typed letter, spouting the party doctrine to convince me that the tax was a good thing.

WarningSarah 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 go 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).   So I pay to go privately to get an accurate diagnosis and correct treatment.  And see others in the same boat in waiting rooms.


The Daily Mail reported another Sikora tip:  do your Research.  He says this is vitally important.

I have noted major American hospital websites, with FAR better info than NHS Choices, 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 to be seen –  they expect a first appointment within 48 hours or sooner, and following visits in same time frame.

 Make a fuss – you are not alone.  It’s YOUR body and YOUR life.    

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 an outcome after cancer as Europeans expect as of right.





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