Playing the NHS appointments system

Recently two senior Consultants told me they don’t expect the NHS to be around in ten years’ time. So I just hope those 7 million plus of us on waiting lists get seen before this happens.

nhs waiting lists cartoon with doctor and the caption " haven't been waiting long enough for treatment." by Ian BakerMulling this over, I reflect I usually see my doctors in a timely fashion, without long waits, because I follow my own advice on climbing up the waiting list;  a sneaky way of getting better health care using techniques I learned from family members in the forces.

Recently I turn on TV, and am riveted by a documentary going behind the scenes of the Falklands War.  In it, senior British Forces personnel let on about the vital cooperation from Chile and the USA that went on secretly behind the scenes.

This came about because our liaison officers knew the right people to contact personally, and so formed a formidable team that offered the support we badly needed, but it had to be done unofficially.

So what has that got to do with the NHS?

Like the British Forces, I have a list of contacts;  mine are Secretaries, Receptionists, appointment staff,  etc. I nurture this list and write thank you letters when appropriate, especially to those behind the scenes who do the admin work but aren’t usually thanked.

Today, when I receive an appointment letter, it probably gives me a date a year off.  A few days later, I take it out and start working out my strategy for obtaining an earlier appointment.

Is this successful?

Yes, yes and yes again.

In the past two months, I have had

  • an appointment for 6 months away moved up when the consultant’s secretary phoned to ask “would you be free next Tuesday?”
  • A polite phone callfrom me asking “by any chance do you have a cancellation?”  produced another offer for the next week.
  • Whilst I was on the phone to my Bank Manager (almost as long a wait as an NHS appointment) up popped an email from Jane, a secretary with whom I exchange jokes via email, offering me yet another appointment for a few days hence.

I made a careful note of each one, and off went a thank you box of chocolates from Hotel Chocolate (dark chocolate because it is supposed to be healthier).

State So here is my strategy again – and I hope it is successful for you too



Isn’t it about time the NHS looked for a new CEO among senior Admirals. Generals or Air Marshalls? They have much better skills than the usual politician taking up a political appointment as Secretary of Stater for Health.