Health check on a service that has lost touch with patients

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From: Barrie Frost, Watson’s Lane, Reighton, Filey.

IS the NHS losing sight of the fact that the “S” in NHS stands for service as too often today it appears to regard patients as people who disrupt their daily work?

In the last 20 years my wife has been one of the unlucky people, who has required six major operations and several more minor ones; unlucky as she doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink more than an odd glass and weighs a normal eight and a half stones.

The surgical teams involved have all been superb and we are extremely grateful for their skill, care and dedication. However, after their heroic efforts, we do seem to then be transferred to a totally different organisation – the Outpatient Clinics.

During this long period I have accompanied my wife to at least 100 such appointments and, along with other patients, we have found them far more stressful than I believe they should be.

Not only have we never been seen “on time” but consider ourselves fortunate if seen within half-an-hour of the appointment time as the average delay must be around the best part of an hour. I am well aware that the specialist may have had to attend an urgent case and no-one would criticise any delays due to this in even the slightest way, but does this happen every time?

However, on the last Outpatient visit a notice was pinned to the wall giving details of the hundreds of appointments patients had missed in the last three months, where they had simply failed to attend or cancel the arrangements.

Both of us muttered how disgraceful this was and how people should be charged for such a waste, but we both had to smile when another long waiting patient said “that’s helped us, just think how long we would have had to wait if all these people had turned up”.

These facts about patients not attending appointments are unforgivable and beyond belief, but, in the interests of fair reporting shouldn’t the Out clinics examine their own performance and provide another notice on the following lines: “In the last three months an “x” number of patients have attended this clinic. None have been seen at their appointment time, the average delay being 47 minutes. Patients must ensure they take this into account when paying to park their cars as the department which has caused this delay still feels justified in issuing a fine.”

As for today’s strike for 24 hours by GPs concerned about their pay and pensions, I really do wonder if they really understand what millions of other people have to live on and the working conditions they endure. The average pay of a GP today is over £100,000 per annum, with a pension at 60 years old of £46,000 pa. They will also receive a tax-free lump sum of around £250,000.

Calls are made for the Government to provide the required money. But governments do not have any money of their own. Any money they give to one group can only be obtained by taking it from someone else.

How can taking money from the less privileged to do this possibly be seen as fair and justified?