NHS is making appointments again

Life is stirring, and the NHS is starting to re-schedule canceled appointments.

Good news is that, for the moment, it seems it is the Consultant’s secretaries who are making appointments.  Pleasant to talk to, they are interested in you, and even have time to offer the best times for your convenience.

What to do if you are still waiting for an appointment

If you are faced with a blank diary and no appointment on the horizon, start phoning immediately.   

If told your appointment is for some far distant date make a note of this. Put the phone down, then call back and nicely ask if there have been any cancellations because …..  and here you give a quick excuse or explanation as to why you can’t wait that long.

And you keep on being polite, but repeating the phone calls asking if there has been a cancellation until you catch the call centre when they have just had a cancellation, and you’re in!

If you aren’t even on the list, this is when the ‘fight’ starts.  Don’t sit back and expect your GP to fight for you. They probably have other patients in the same boat. According to senior Consultants make a fuss when things don’t go to plan.

This is what savvy Consultants suggest  

You DON’T have to go to the hospital your GP selects – you have the right to go to another NHS hospital. .

Consider contacting as many people/organisations as you can find to help you get that elusive appointment, such as

  1. Your local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group).  This Group commissions hospitals locally to provide services in your area.
  2. Your GP :  it may or may not be something your GP has organised and they may or may not have control over
  3. Your MP – always a good idea as officially the NHS comes under a Government Ministry.  Sometimes just copying in your MP by putting CC on a letter/email will get attention
  4. Ask advice from the Patients’ Association
  5. If what you are suffering from has a charity looking after it, ask the advice of their Helpline e.g. Macmillan, Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Heart, Rheumatology, Versus Arthritis, Polio, etc.
  6. Ask if it is possible to go to an adjacent area for earlier treatment.  I am under 14 different Consultants, three of whom are in London because I couldn’t get an appointment in Oxford.  I am even entitled to hospital transport to go there.
  7. Think about going to Europe for treatment.  NHS trusts have paid for treatment there in the past.  Post-covid I don’t know what will happen, but it’s worth asking.  Those who have gone down this route have generally been very satisfied.  Most European staff speak English, wards are much smaller so you might even have a single room, standards are high, and only drawback can be that you might have to pay out for travel and some incidentals not covered by the NHS.  Yes, there are horror stories – but so are there concerning many hospitals in the UK.

Recently I used a combination of 1,3 and 5 – and have just been told I have an appointment next week.  So one of these methods worked!

All this is NOT good for your health – the less hassle you have when sick, the better for you. But today, with the shortage of staff, to get care you often need to use cunning!

Cancer guru Karol Sikora has even written a book on the subject.  I have followed his suggestions, and found they work!

Learn names of Receptionists and Consultant’s PA – and thank them for their help.  Give them flowers, a home-made cake, write an old-fashioned letter or do something so they remember you.  Then when things go wrong you can go directly to them; it is surprising how helpful they can be, particularly in getting you moved up to the top of the appointments list.

To make sure of follow-ups

Ensure you see the same doctor or consultant when you attend an Outpatients Clinic. Then you don’t have to take ‘first come’ when you are called in. If shown in and see a stranger politely say “I am here to see  X  and don’t want to waste your time”.  Doctors dislike the clinic system too.  They say you need continuity.

There is constant massive cost-cutting in the NHS. Just make sure it isn’t your care that loses out.  And be prepared to fight !