Friday, June 3, 2011

Why waiting list figures are a sham

Undoubtedly there must be a pressure on the NHS to perpetually reduce waiting list times. I'm hazarding a guess that indeed their performance must be judged partially on these. On being referred myself recently to three different departments, I mused that it would be interesting to see the differences in waiting list times. How quickly that initial contact would come didn't actually occur to me.
And here's the rub: performance figures are based on how long you have to wait from when they receive the referral.
As six weeks had passed since my first referral, I thought it was time to make a few enquiries and see what was holding things up. The surgery confirmed that the referral had been sent and faxed on the 19th April. The clinic claimed to not have received it. The surgery then confided that actually, this happens quite a lot. The next step was that they would re-fax it to them, and if I rang the clinic in ten minutes, I could get them to confirm receiving it, and ask them to hurry up an appointment as the original referral had been made so long ago. Ten minutes later, the clinic confirmed receiving the faxed form, but as they didn't have hard copies of the blood results and the covering letter from the GP, they couldn't accept it as a referral. The surgery now has to wait until the GP returns from leave in order to get her to do another referral.
So, by using these stalling tactics, the clinic have bought themselves another month or so, totalling about three months of stalled time without it affecting their statistics.
Clinic no. 2 rang me about a month after being referred. To arrange a phone appointment for this week. Slightly bemused by being rung to arrange a phone call, I waited for the allotted time and day. No phone call appeared. By the end of the week, three days after the supposed appointment expired, I rang the clinic. I named the practitioner who'd rung me, and outlined the details that she'd given me. The nameless person I spoke to fobbed me off with an 'oh I'll email her and then inform you of what happens in writing.' Ok, so another stalling tactic again.
Clinic no. 3 at least had my details and confirmed receiving the referral, albeit a week after it was sent to them. I am apparently on the waiting list, but the receptionist couldn't confirm how long that would be, and just said I would be notified in due course after the consultant had assessed my need. This was the most satisfactory though, because I expect to be on a waiting list, I expect there to be delays, but what I don't expect is to have to wait to get on the waiting list.

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