Monday, July 28, 2008

The unbelievable new NHS booking system

I've been meaning to describe what happened recently when we found ourselves in need of using the new fangled NHS hospital appointment booking system. But I see William Heath has done a lovely job of articulating his almost identical experience. I hope he doesn't mind me copying his post here almost in full but it is probably something you have to go through yourself to believe.

"I finally got to experience Choose and Book. Some teething problems:
1. Need referral to orthopaedic consultant. GP says she’ll make referral (can’t do choose and book in the surgery for some reason)
2. A week later I receive a letter with a special number to ring. It tells me I will have been given a password by my GP. But I haven’t, it’s included on the next piece of paper (does that undermine the security procedures somewhat I wonder?)
3. The letter has 3 sections. Section one tells me my details, my reference number etc. Section 2 tells me I have 3 options to get info to help me make my choice - I can use the phone, the textphone or the internet. Section 3 gives me the same 3 choices for booking my appointment, but points out that the online option is not yet available.
4. I ring the phone number (0845....). I am waiting for ages… (meanwhile the recorded message tells me I may prefer to use the online option - though given the info above about non-availability of the internet version, I am now too scared to lose my place in the queue so I keep holding)
5. I get through. They tell me that appointments for Kings don’t use the 0845 number, and I am given another number to call. *sigh*
6. When I speak to the bookings people at Kings, they offer me an appointment for early August. grin
Unfortunately I am on holiday in Scotland then. :-( I ask if I can have an appointment at the end of the month. ‘NO, unfortunately we aren’t allowed to book appointments that far away, because we have to meet the target of giving people appointments within 5 weeks’. Errr, even if I can’t make the appointment because I am away? ‘Yes, it’s rubbish isn’t it. Patient choice has gone out of the window’.... Tell you what love, I’ll ignore the system, and let’s book you an appointment that suits your diary.’ "

When my wife and I first read the paperwork that arrived in the post we both did a double, then a triple take and decided it must have taken one incredibly convoluted mindset to create this particular systemic administrative camel out of the original horses considered by the relevant committees. I'm sure the study of the process that created this unbelievable system would and could form the basis of more than a few academic papers. (If there are any insiders reading this I'd be happy to hear from you!)

Luckily for William Heath and for us we eventually made contact with a human being with an ounce of common sense. But don't worry that common sense will be weeded out when the system gets properly bedded in. Can't have people showing initiative, now, can we?

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