"Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield"

About: Chase Farm Hospital / General medicine

(as the patient),

I have been attending Chase Farm Hospital on and off since the mid-90s with a condition which still does not seem to have been positively identified. Many of the healthcare professionals and support staff at the hospital have dealt with me in a professional, courteous manner. Unfortunately, to me they are let down by some of their more experienced colleagues. In my experience, appointments have been cancelled without any notification and I feel I am often sent into a vicious circle when the various treatments tried and drugs prescribed do not appear to have the desired effect.

Earlier this year, my GP referred me to a physiotherapist and I was able to make the relevant appointment with any problem, even being given the very useful option of attending a nearby community hospital rather than travelling to Chase Farm. Around about the same time of the GP’s referral, a local dentist referred me to Chase Farm for some treatment. When the letter arrived inviting me to make an appointment, it was not immediately apparent that this was a result of the dentist’s referral. I phoned the hospital where the person answering the phone tried to book another physiotherapy appointment. After explaining to the individual that this was not a physiotherapy referral, they put me on hold. After a couple of minutes, the line went dead. I contacted the reception again the following day and was told that the most recent letter I had received was a mistake and to ignore it.

A few weeks later, I asked my dentist what had happened to his referral. He had not heard anything and advised me that the letter I had received was definitely in respect of his referral. He said that I should immediately contact the hospital and make another attempt to book an appointment. However, when I did so, I was dealt with I felt rather rudely who told me that the relevant papers had been returned to the referring GP. When I explained that the referral had originated from a dentist, not from a GP, they said “Well, I don’t what’s happened then. ”

I then went back to both my dentist and my GP and asked them whether the papers had been returned to them and they both claimed not to have received them. My dentist made a further referral and I have now managed to make the appropriate appointment. However, I would point out that, on the first attempt to do so, I was informed that there would be a 58-minute wait before I would be able to speak with someone in the Appointments Office.

In the meantime, the physiotherapist had determined that there was little he could do for me and referred me for further treatment to a spinal specialist. When trying to book this appointment, the receptionist again tried to book a physiotherapy appointment. After some explanation from me, it seemed that I had successfully booked an appointment to see a spinal specialist. However, when attending the appointment, I was again seen by a physiotherapist to whom I repeated the information that had been given to the previous physio (and to three other physios who have been seen by me in past years).

The physio organised an MRI scan of my lower back and advised me to contact the specialist two weeks after the scan. The scan technicians told me that the results would be sent to my GP within four weeks and to contact my GP at this time. I spoke to the specialist’s office by telephone about four weeks after the scan but they could not tell me anything but had been instructed to write to me. Now, about seven weeks after the scan and more than two weeks after speaking to the specialist’s office, I have heard nothing and am still none the wiser about this aspect of my case.

I would also suggest that the standard letter sent to patients inviting them to make an appointment needs to be rephrased. At the moment, it gives seven days from the date of the letter to make the appointment. However, it seems to me these letters invariably do not arrive within two days of that date. The most recent letter asking me to make the dental appointment arrived five days after the date stated on the letter. On the day after making the appointment, I received a reminder to make the appointment which was dated four days previously. These delays mean that patients are not being given seven days to make an appointment.

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Response from Chase Farm Hospital

The Trust apologies for the poor experience that you had in using our central appointment services. All new referrals are directed by GPs, Dentists and referral agencies to this department. Due to the high demand there can be a delay in speaking with an appointments officer. To assist patients there is an automated indication of time waiting and the department has employed and is training some additional staff to speak with patients. Where there are a number of referrals occuring at the same time it can be confusing when dealing with enquiries. I was pleased to note that your appointments were made. If there is an ongoing delay in receiving results for diagnostic tests or any further delays in contacting our appointments officers please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 0208 375 2378 / 0208 216 4924 - please leave a voicemessage if not answered as calls are returned within 1 working day. I will make the central appointments manager aware of your feedback. As an organisation we are committed from learning from specific issues and from any mistakes we may have made. Hearing about where we can do better helps us to pinpoint where exactly to make improvements to the service we provide. I am pleased that you provided your feedback.

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