"Choose and Book: the reality check"

About: King's College Hospital (Denmark Hill) / Trauma and orthopaedics Southwark PCT

(as the patient),

(Originally posted on www.idealgovernment.com)

I finally got to experience Choose and Book. Some teething problems:

1. Need referral to orthopaedic consultant at Kings. 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. 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.’

I think this may have been a problem more with wider targets about waiting times, driving perverse, un-patient-centric behaviour, rather than a Choose and Book problem per se. But wouldn't it be better if booking clerks didn’t have to break the rules to give one an appointment you can actually make?

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